Six months ago, Europe closed its borders to thousands of migrants and reached a deportation deal with Turkey. Those arriving in the Greek islands must stay for months to have their asylum claims processed before they can head for northern Europe through mainland Greece.
CCTV’s Filio Kontrafouri filed this report from Chios, one of the islands on the frontlines of Europe’s refugee crisis in the Eastern Aegean Sea.
Thousands of Refugee trapped on Greek island for future resettlementSix months ago, Europe closed its borders to thousands of migrants and reached a deportation deal with Turkey. Those arriving in the Greek islands must stay for months to have their asylum claims processed before they can head for northern Europe through mainland Greece. CCTV’s Filio Kontrafouri filed this report from Chios, one of the islands on the frontlines of Europe’s refugee crisis in the Eastern Aegean Sea.
As the sun rises over the Turkish coast, the Greek island of Chios awakens to the reality of Europe’s deal with Turkey. Refugees continue to arrive, though their numbers have fallen off, dramatically.
For those who make it here, Chios has become a giant holding cell. Refugees are confined to the island’s two overcrowded camps until authorities conduct their first asylum interview.
“In Syria, when you die you know that you will die just one time, but you will die between your memories. You will die between your families, your relatives. But here we are just waiting. You ask me for 6 or 7 months you should wait, wait, and wait. We are waiting for nothing. We don’t know what we are waiting, what will happen to us.” Syrian Refugee Wassim Omar.
Wassim and other refugees went on a hunger strike to draw attention to their plight. But few paid attention. They still live in small containers in this camp.
They have no hot water. Food is provided by aid organizations. Frustration mounts. Fights break out between different groups. Without money, some turn to petty crime.
Tensions with locals have been building. Many islanders want them out.
Since the EU-Turkey deal came in to effect at the end of March, over 3,500 migrants and refugees have been trapped on Chios. For most, their fate remains unknown.
Many of them live in rough conditions here in the island’s Vial camp. The authorities cannot process people off the island fast enough. Europe promised to send Greece 700 caseworkers, but so far only around 200 have arrived.
“It’s hard to predict how the situation will evolve. For sure, signs are not encouraging because of the entrapment and some cases of criminal activity local community has lost its sense of security. As long as people remain trapped on the islands under these conditions, in these camps, without food and with nothing to do, we will have this,” Chios Council Member Ermioni Frezouli said.
Minutes after our interview, Omar was notified that after seven months on the island, he can finally move with his family to Athens. But he still feels trapped.
“Now I feel that I go out from my prison, from small prison to bigger prison. I will move from Chios or islands to the mainland or Greece in general. I can move in Greece. But I can’t move out of Greece. That’s the problem,”Omar said.
Like many of the others, Wassim wants to go to Germany. There he hopes to join his brother. After surviving the Chios camp, he says he is convinced he can make it there.