“We were driven from the camp,” explains Ahmad Agha, 28, of Kandahar, while holding in his hand the document for him, his wife and their two children. “We went to the harbor, but it is already full of people. Now we are in the streets, without a place to go, we have no money but we need to eat. The ferry to Athens will come in a few days.”
Not far away, another young Afghan stands outside the Blamari gate clutching a bag containing a little fruit and some cookies he purchased in town. He brought them for some friends still trapped inside, and after some insistence, a policeman opened the first gate and locked it behind him. Then, he opened the outer gate and orders the man to deposit the food in the area between the two metal barriers. Next, he closed the outer gate and only then allowed one of the inmates to collect the bag and its contents. This modus operandi leaves little doubt of the prison-like nature of the camp.
To complicate things further, the lack of information has given the Blamari prisoners a deep sense of insecurity. They are terrified of being deported to Turkey, which could mean forced repatriation for non-Syrians or Iraqis. For many who qualify for refugee protections, such deportations would be illegal under international law.
“We want to stay here,” reads one sign pushed against the fence by the Pakistani group. With tears in their eyes, they vent the fear that plagues them: “We are running away from terrorism in our country. Going back means we can be killed.”
For them, however, it is only a matter of time. Because they arrived by boat before the Brussels agreements, they do not risk expulsion to Turkey, and sooner or later, they will board a ferry either to the port of Elefsina or Piraeus. The latter has been converted into a huge tent city for thousands of new arrivals. It will be a different fate for the 17 refugees who arrived to Samos on Monday, after the dangerous crossing by sea from Bodrum, on the Turkish coast. They have been accused of the crime of illegal immigration and placed under arrest in Blamari where they mingled with the other inmates.
Considering the evident disorganization of the camp, there is legitimate to doubt whether the authorities will be able to identify who came before and who came after the implementation of the March 20 agreements. However, the Syrian and Iraqi newcomers only have two options. Either they decide to move forward for asylum in Greece, or they are sent back to Turkey.