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As an organisation based on Samos, I HAVE RIGHTS (IHR) has witnessed to the shift from open camps to Closed Control Access Centres (CCAC), which by design detain, control and dehumanise people seeking safety. An integral part of this shift is to evict open camps, leaving people homeless or forced to enter EU funded closed migration camps. 

On the 16th of August 2022 the Greek authorities began to evict Eleonas camp in Athens, “the last camp in the country where the residents were relatively free to leave[1]. We stand in solidarity with the residents of Eleonas, and support their demands to be treated with dignity and respect. 

From camps to Closed Control Access Centres (CCACs) 

This week, I HAVE RIGHTS interviewed Christian, a resident of Eleonas camp, who for safety reasons does not wish for us to use his real name. Like people in the old Vathy camp in Samos, he is uncertain about his future:

Where are we going to go? I don’t have anywhere to go. I would only sleep outside. I don’t know anyone who could host me. I have to stay and resist. I have rejections, I don’t have AMKA, no health coverage, no money, I don’t know how to find some food. Organisations here help us for our health. It’s in Athens that I can find some help. Help to access healthcare because I don’t have the right. Outside of Athens, I don’t know how I would access healthcare. NGOs are the only ones who support me and give me the food that I can eat. All this is only possible in Athens, in the closed camps NGOs don’t enter. Only here organisations give me things to eat, vouchers to buy products that are necessary for my health. I have to resist but we don’t know until when because the government continues to forcefully implement the decision to close the camp.

As with the Samos CCAC, which is situated 7km from the town of Vathy, Christian also has concerns about being isolated from wider society: 

They force us to go to the closed camps, some are not completely closed but isolated, far from the city. People work here and contribute to the Greek economy, people work in companies, in the fields… How can someone leave his camp to go to work in Athens? It’s not possible because you don’t have anywhere to stay in Athens. Maybe he has a family, how can he leave them? They want to send us to camps, maybe not closed but isolated and there, there is no help for those who don’t have an AMKA. The manager of the camp is threatening us, saying all the people who don’t want to be transferred will be kicked out. Their asylum procedure will be stopped and their case will be deleted from the asylum system. They want to send us in camps, actually in closed prisons and then send us back to Turkey. 

CCACs are designed to have “prison like conditions” [2], where people’s freedom of movement and daily lives are strictly controlled. 

I don’t even want to imagine a closed camp, I’ve lived in Moria. Before I came to Athens, I was there. We’ve been through difficult times and the camp of Kara Tepe was almost closed. We were going out according to the days, numbers and hours. It was difficult for the health. With my issue with my problem, it took one year for me to see a specialist. Organisations in the camp had to fight with the Greek government to let us see specialists in the public hospital. I know all these things, I don’t want to go through this again.

As in Samos in 2021, the eviction of open camps has a serious impact on people’s mental health. In Samos, some even attempted suicide after receiving the a message from the Ministry of Migration and Asylum saying they only had one month before being transfered to the closed camp. 

People are not far from hurting themselves. We break down. Many go crazy and break down. Closed camps are worse, I can’t even imagine, it’s hard. We feel no one hears us, even if we talk no one will be here to support us. This feeling is growing for many people. All they want is to leave Greece, not talk about the situation. 

It’s difficult, it’s very complicated. It makes you angry, it confuses you. We feel the pressure, the loneliness, the powerlessness. We are not supported. We already have many psychological issues but this situation makes it worse. It just creates anger, despair and abandon. This feeling of loneliness, that we are alone, powerless, we are not okay. 

According to Christian, fearing reprisal and police violence many have fled Eleonas: 

The situation was already very difficult. Today it’s worse because the camp will close and the eviction started a while ago. We’re trying to fight but many people left the camp. Some were transferred, others preferred to flee because there is already a lot of pressure with what’s happening in Greece. They don’t want to be threatened by the police everyday when they come with force convoys. 

Before, the police were not violent. They were here for security. Now, they are just here to bring people by force. They put them in force convoys under the order of the new camp manager and the Greek government. She was in Samos, the one who made everyone suffer. The police are deployed only for this reason, to be violent so that you cannot resist.

For those who have not fled, fearing what life will be for them in closed camps, much like the CCAC in Samos, they have decided to resist: 

There are only thirty or forty people resisting now. Some don’t resist, they are already tired, weakened, they can’t take it anymore.

We managed to postpone the transfer to tomorrow at 4am [referring to the 31st of August]. The manager of the camp will knock on each container where people have received the ticket to be transferred with the military to take them out by force. 

While the shift from open camps, such as Eleonas or the old camp in Samos, to closed camps is promoted as a solution focused on people’s security and safety, residents of the CCAC report living in fear caused by the security apparatus. We stand in solidarity with the residents of Eleonas and call on the EU and Greece to stop detaining people in closed camps. 

I would like to settle here, in Europe. I work with many people who fight against the abuses of refugees. I myself know the pain to be a refugee, especially when you arrive somewhere where no one really takes into consideration your problems. I know what it feels like, the pain you feel.

[1] Quote from the journalist Florian Schmitz https://twitter.com/SchmitzFlorian_/status/1561021399183007744 

[2] GCR and Oxfam. 2021. Lesbos Bulletin. Available at: https://www.gcr.gr/media/k2/attachments/20220224_Lesbos_Bulletin.pdf