Supporting asylum seekers on Samos Island
The Greek island of Samos is home to one of the most over-populated refugee camps in Europe. At present, there are over 7,200 migrants living in the camp, which was built to accommodate only 648 people. The refugees sleep in tents and go without access to basic rights such as housing, sanitary items, education and healthcare.
The situation shows no sign of easing, as migrants are arriving daily through Turkey, mostly from Syria, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon. According to the agreement signed by the EU and Turkey in 2016, asylum seekers cannot leave the island until their asylum application has been processed and they have been granted international protection, which can take up to two years.
We have formed a secondment program with Avocats sans Frontières France (ASF) to support their work on the Island of Samos. Since July 2019, we have sent two lawyers from across Europe and the UK to Samos every fortnight. The lawyers are paired with an ASF volunteer to prepare and accompany clients to their asylum interviews with the Greek Asylum Services (GAS) or the European Asylum Service. Our lawyers also assist ASF with family reunification cases and information/legal workshops for LGBTQI clients and women.
- Our lawyers helped and advised over 527 clients between July and December 2019. Among them, 128 were women.
- On average, ten clients are accompanied every month to their asylum interviews in the camp.
- Between July and December 2019, eight people were recognized as a refugee or granted subsidiary protection.
- 152 clients obtained an open card, which lifts the geographical restriction and allows them to continue their procedure on the mainland.
- The legal center provided support for 65 appeal procedures.
- We have seen three family reunification cases (supported by our lawyers) accepted by Austria, the UK and Germany.
 UNHCR, Samos Weekly Snapshots, December 23-29, 2019