Since May 6, migrants and asylum seekers in the camp on Samos, which was presented as a model example when it opened in September 2021, have been living without running water, advocacy groups say. Migrants in the camp reportedly receive 4.5 liters of water per person per day to cover all their water needs, from washing to drinking.
It was meant to be a model camp, an ideal version of all hotspots for asylum seekers. Instead, since its opening in September 2021, this closed camp on the Greek island of Samos appears to have accumulated problem after problem.
The latest, which occurred on May 6, is an extreme reduction in running water supplies to the camp. That means the 400 inhabitants have very reduced access to running water. Just for one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. "More and more people have told us that even that is not entirely accurate, that the water never lasts for an entire hour in the morning and evening, but more like 20 or 30 minutes," said a member of the Samos advocacy collective, an umbrella group of organizations defending migrant rights, to InfoMigrants.
According to Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitorakis, the cause of the water reduction is due to a breakage at one of the water pumps. But organizations which work within the camp, defending migrant rights, say that this fault is just one in a long list of problems which has beset the camp since its opening.
Insufficient quantities of water
A Greek journalist asked the Greek authorities more about the breakdown at the water pomp. The authorities answered that they were having difficulties getting a spare part to repair it because of the global shortage in construction items at the moment.
While they are waiting for the pump to be fixed, camp inhabitants are given three and a half bottles of water per person per day, which is equivalent to 4.5 liters. This is an insufficient quantity to cover all their needs from drinking, to cooking, to hygiene. In fact, the World Health Organization WHO estimates that people need 20 liters per day to cover their basic needs.
In a thread on Twitter, DW’s correspondent in Greece Florian Schmitz reported on the issue of the pump. On May 16, he explained that the Ministry of Migration had told him that the "pump was not available at short notice, also due to the remoteness of the island." Later on that day, he updated the thread to say the Ministry had reached out to him "saying that the issue with running water in Samos will be solved within the next two or three days." Schmitz added that he was told there was "never any shortage of water and that they will increase the water delivery tomorrow."
In addition to the distribution of bottles, the Greek authorities say that they are planning to deliver cisterns of water to the camp. InfoMigrants had access to an accountancy document from the Ministry of Migration which was dated May 16. The document detailed a delivery of 300 cubic meters of water to be sent to the Samos Camp "soon."
In the meantime, migrant rights associations have been distributing jerrycans of water and underwear to the inhabitants of the camp. On Monday, the Samos advocacy collective sent an email to the Greek Minister of Migration and to the European Commission, in order to alert them to the situation.
The lack of water and therefore hygiene is forcing inhabitants to run sanitary risks, stated the letter. "Last week, 33 people arrived in the camp," confirmed a spokesperson for the advocacy collective. "They still haven’t been able to take a shower."
'The camp has been dysfunctional since the beginning'
The water shortage has complicated an already difficult life for the asylum seekers and migrants who live in the camp. "The camp has been dysfunctional since the beginning. Three weeks after its opening, there were already problems," said the spokesperson from the Samos advocacy collective. Last October, strong rains battered the island and the camp, which is constructed in the pit of a valley was quickly flooded.
The European Union gave €276 million to Greece to build the new closed camps, including the on Samos, which cost around €43 million. Some of this money went to installing the video surveillance system, the magnetic entry gates and the high fences topped with barbed wire which surround the camp.
Since the opening of the camp, those who live there, who were forced to move in, have been complaining about frequent electricity cuts, breakdown of air conditioning units, and have pointed out that the showers often leak and then flood the living quarters. The camp also quickly showed itself to be badly adapted for anyone living there with a disability, according to advocacy groups.
This article was translated from the French original by Emma Wallis. Originally published in French on May 18, 2022