Are closed refugee camps a good idea?
The Greek government has announced plans to start building closed refugee camps on five Aegean islands in March. The people living in these new camps will no longer be able to come and go as they please and their asylum procedures are to be processed within 90 days of their arrival. Overcrowded camps such as the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos are to be closed. The media are divided over the plans.
Criticism of Athens unjustified
The Greek government's strategy is headed in the right direction, Kathimerini concludes, stressing that patience is now needed:
“It is not at all certain that the creation of new so-called closed facilities will do anything to lessen the number of those arriving. What is quite certain, though, is that the situation will get better in combination with improved mechanisms for dealing with the issue and other initiatives being adopted by the government. The locations selected for the new camps are so remote that there is little to justify the extreme reactions we have seen, including those from the North Aegean regional governor and some mayors. They can't refuse to talk with the government - unless they're pondering some kind of island state of their own. The same goes for residents on the mainland who have reacted unreasonably to the establishment of open camps in their vicinities.”
Send doctors and nurses to Greece!
The Guardian is outraged by the failure of other EU states to help Greece cope with the influx of refugees:
“Instead of implicitly encouraging the Greek government to copy and paste from Viktor Orbán's flawed migration manual by failing to give Greece the support it needs, EU officials should consider creating an EU reception and protection system at the external borders of Europe - and sending doctors, nurses, social workers and interpreters there. As it stands, Frontex, an EU super-agency, is increasingly meant to be taking over control of those external borders. Yet the responsibilities of actually receiving and protecting migrants are being left to Greece, a small member state. That's an absurd situation.”
Deportation for protesting
Web portal ThePressProject goes into more detail about the government's plans:
“The worst thing comes at the end of the announcement, where it is made clear that those who do not abide by the 'rules' of closed centres will be one step closer to deportation. ... As stipulated in the new asylum law, protesting during food distribution, for example, is considered a reason for deportation. In this way 'order' is to be maintained and the islanders and TV viewers will not have the 'misfortune' of seeing 'foreigners' complain about their living conditions. ... At the same time few are interested in the real reason for the refugees' complaints: the processing of their asylum applications is being put on hold so that the applications of new arrivals can be scrutinised under the new system and the government can boast of deportations.”
Catastrophe is foreseeable
The concept of closed camps is doomed to failure, Avgi warns:
“The influx of refugees from Turkey will continue, which means that the number of refugees trapped on the islands and living in these closed centres will grow. Looking back, the hotspot in Moria will probably look like a playground by comparison after a while. The government is resorting to closed centres because it cannot relieve the islands' burden. ... But without relief for the islands there can be no sustainable management of the refugee problem. Greece is also dependent on European solidarity, but the government is in the process of destroying that solidarity by demonising NGOs.”