Athens, Greece – A senior European Union official is set to announce a fund of 250 million euros ($ 295 million) for the construction of new refugee camps on the Greek Aegean islands, but groups of Advocates have warned that the investment may not help those living in precarious conditions.
EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson is expected to visit Lesvos and Samos on Monday with Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi.
Johansson said funds for camps, or Multipurpose Reception and Identification Centers (MPRICs), should be sufficient for “acceptable standards” to be delivered “on a reasonable schedule.”
The structures, scheduled to be ready before the end of the year, would not be “closed”, she wrote in a blog post on the European Commission website, published Wednesday. “They will be human and will allow areas for families and vulnerable people.
“They will allow children to go to school, which is essential so as not to waste precious years.”
However, the Greek authorities have repeatedly stated that the new sites will be “closed and controlled”.
Matthias Mertens, co-founder of the rights group Europe Must Act which focuses on migration, told Al Jazeera he was concerned about people’s personal freedoms.
“The new MPRICs will provide prison-like living conditions for asylum seekers in remote locations outside the urban fabric,” he said.
“They will reduce refugee response, while diminishing the capacity of NGOs to provide essential services, both of which are vital to ensuring decent and humane living conditions.
“There is also no democratic mandate for the construction of these new camps nor are they seen as European solidarity in action by local islanders. On the contrary, the resistance against the MPRICs is fierce and widespread. “
Islanders have also expressed their opposition.
Last March, after the arrival of construction materials for the new sites, residents protested. Some in Lesvos and Chios then clashed with riot police sent from Athens to disperse them.
Last week, the regional governor of the North Aegean Sea, Kostas Moutzouris, told local news that he still believes that there should not be a “permanent” structure on the island but that the continuation of dialogue was important.
Marta Welander, head of Refugee Rights Europe, said that EU-funded camps should be accompanied by “a robust, independent and transparent monitoring mechanism that can help ensure respect for the human rights of all operations in the centers.
“Without a significant investment and commitment to such a monitoring mechanism, these centers risk becoming dangerous vanishing points where rights violations against vulnerable people on the move can unfold without hindrance,” Welander said.
More than 13,300 people are currently living in camps across the islands.
Farah (alias), a 21-year-old Afghan girl, lived in a temporary camp in Lesbos before being transferred with her family this month to Germany.
“If a new camp is to be built, it must have decent bathrooms, good food, enough water and proper sinks and there shouldn’t be any tents, living in a tent is very difficult,” she declared.
“There should be more doctors and schools [too]. “
Human Rights 360’s Epaminondas Farmakis told Al Jazeera he was not convinced the money would lead to better camps.
“Moria, Lesbos has been the moral failure of Europe,” he said.
“The conditions have been atrocious for many years now and more than 3 billion euros [$3.5bn] are headed from the EU to Greece to tackle this process. These funds are distributed without transparency and without a procurement policy. The answer would therefore not be to waste more funds from European taxpayers. “