Sunday

24th Jan 2021

Conditions dire at EU-funded migrant camp in Greece

  • The “New Malakasa” camp is funded through the Metoikos project under the EU's Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. (Photo: YoungJ523)

Some 1,000 people are living in deplorable conditions in an EU-funded migrant camp on the outskirts of Athens in Greece.

Also known as "new Malakasa", construction of the state-run centre started nine months ago and is backed by some €4.7m in EU funding.

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It has no running water, with most people living in tents not designed for winter conditions. Power cuts are frequent.

The first reported refugee death in Greece from Covid-19 was a Malakasa-camp resident.

A recent report by Refugee Support Aegean, an NGO, said residents included asylum seekers from Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Syria.

Minos Mouzourakis, a legal officer at the NGO, said none of the 283 children who lived in Malakasa attended school.

"Due to the lack of Wi-Fi access in the facility, children are also unable to follow the current conduct of classes via videoconference," he said, in an email.

The NGO collected testimonies of some of the residents.

They described conditions reminiscent of Moria, a large, ghetto-like camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, which burned to the ground in September.

"There is violence, there is sexual harassment of women … I am scared even to go alone to the toilet after dark," said one Malakasa resident.

Another one told the NGO her family warmed themselves and cooked on a makeshift open fire.

"We have no light. I covered my baby in a jacket and I cannot take it off due to the cold," she said.

The camp is co-financed by the EU, under its Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (Amif).

For its part, the European Commission said it had signed a grant agreement for the camp with the Greek ministry of migration and asylum on 23 November.

"Construction of the camp began in March 2020, following tensions at the Greek-Turkish border. This pre-dates the commission's award, the emergency funding for this project was granted retroactively," an EU commission spokesperson said in an email on 18 December.

Malakasa still needed to be connected to the national electricity network and containers would eventually replace the tents, the spokesman said, but gave no dates.

The commission was monitoring the situation in the camp "with the aim to improve reception conditions and ensure proper temporary shelter for winter", the commission added.

This included setting up large tent-like structures to provide some shelter from cold.

"Release of second pre-financing for this facility is conditional upon the installation of all containers in the camp," the EU spokesman said.

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