A correspondence between the Samos Advocacy Collective and the European Commission regarding the current movement restrictions of asylum seekers in the Closed Controlled Access Centre (CCAC) of Samos unveils the inhumanity of the complex asylum system and the worrying lack of accountability from the EU.
Since mid November 2021, many people living in the EU-funded, prison-like camp of Samos have been facing entry and exit restrictions that, as ruled by a Greek court, amount to unlawful detention, which is a clear violation of people’s freedom of movement. Since then, the Samos Advocacy Collective, Europe Must Act and 10other groups have been repeatedly asking the EU Commission and the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum (letters sent on 30/11/2021 and 09/12/2021) requesting clarity on the “legal basis” in which the restrictions have been enacted. As the CCAC gates operate with an electronic system linked to the asylum applicant card, newly arrived people and those with negative decisions are unable to exit and re-enter the facility.
The replies that the Samos Advocacy Collective received from Beate Gminder, Deputy Director General of the “Task Force Migration Management” of the EU Commission, on 17/12/2021 and 22/02/2022 reveals a complete disregard of their accountability for the situation in the facility which is funded by the very institution itself.
While Ms Gminder states that people “have indeed restricted access to the [CCAC]”and that asylum seekers without an asylum applicant card are allowed to leave the camp but they are not allowed back in, she fails to mention that once out of the facility they will be not considered eligible to receive any kind of formal state support. This uncovers a harsh reality for people seeking asylum who are faced with the hard choice of either facing destitution or being stuck in a highly securitisedand controlled facility.
Ms Gminder then proposes programs financed by the EU Commission (Assisted Voluntary Return and Helios Program by IOM) as a solution to the potential freedom violations, despite these programs not being relevant for the two groups of camp residents referred to in the letters as well as being considered completely inaccessible by civil society organisations.
Marie* of the Samos Advocacy Collective states: “Such a stance shows that the EU is completely detached from the realities that those living in the CCAC face by failing to address the potential human rights violations that displaced people in Samos are subjected to. It is time for the EU and Greek government to put an end to this ‘accountability ping-pong’ and take responsibility for the situation in Samos and fulfil their duty to uphold fundamental human rights.”
Among the camp residents impacted by movement restrictions are those from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia (nationalities that make up more than half the camp’s population according to UNHCR) whose asylum claim is considered not admissible due to Turkey being considered as a safe third country following the 2016 EU-Turkey Deal and the 2021 Joint Ministerial Decision. Concerns of the systematic non-compliance by Greece with the Asylum Procedures Directive as regards the safe third country was raised by 27 civil society organisations in a separate letter to the EU Commission. Moreover, the fee system for people to submit subsequent applications that Ms Gminder refers to in her last letter has not been operational for several months. This has prevented asylum seekers with negative decisions from re-entering the asylum system and hence, being eligible forstate support and having freedom of movement.
Cecilia Sanfelici, Aegean Advocacy Coordinator for Europe Must Act stated: “The situation in Samos reveals the inhumane practical implications of European migration policies designed to contain people seeking asylum and deter new arrivals. We as Europe Must Act will keep advocating for immediate relocation to other Member States and particularly to those cities that have declared they want towelcome people on the move. Community-based solutions are the only humane, dignified, and sustainable solutions for both people on the move and welcoming communities.”
The full correspondence can be found here.
*Name has been changed to protect anonymity