Greek island on front line of Europe’s refugee route builds dedicated ‘prison camp’ with

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Ringed by a tall razor wire fence in a remote part of the pretty Greek island of Samos are long rows of pale grey huts, each with a number, and stretching as far as the eye can see.       

They are spartan buildings guarded by armed police, and the people who live in them have absolutely no chance of escape.

This is a migrant camp with a difference. Its rules are unbending and a loudspeaker blares out messages about meal times in multiple languages to the inmates.

The camp sits at the edge of the European Union and is less than a mile across the east Aegean sea from Turkey.

The 375 souls here this week expected a warmer welcome in the West: a hotel room or a free house, perhaps, schooling for their children and state handouts in their pockets. What they found was far from that dream.

On Greek island of Samos a migrant camp is guarded by police and razor fence, and it is a regime that could be coming to Britain soon. ‘This is the model of migrant camp that England hopes to copy

On Greek island of Samos a migrant camp is guarded by police and razor fence, and it is a regime that could be coming to Britain soon. ‘This is the model of migrant camp that England hopes to copy

Until this summer, 9,000 migrants had the run of the island. They lived in a rat-infested shanty village without lights, hot water or sanitation right beside Samos’s capital, until it was bulldozed and most of the inhabitants sent to Athens

Until this summer, 9,000 migrants had the run of the island. They lived in a rat-infested shanty village without lights, hot water or sanitation right beside Samos’s capital, until it was bulldozed and most of the inhabitants sent to Athens

The Home Secretary Priti Patel (Pictured) visits a migrant centre in Greece. She hopes to bring the regime to Britain

The Home Secretary Priti Patel (Pictured) visits a migrant centre in Greece. She hopes to bring the regime to Britain

The camp sits at the edge of the European Union and is less than a mile across the east Aegean sea from Turkey (Pictured)

The camp sits at the edge of the European Union and is less than a mile across the east Aegean sea from Turkey (Pictured)

The camp is divided into colour-coded zones: Afghans (blue), Africans (red) and Arabs (green) all separated to stop fights between the factions who accuse each other of racism and use fists or worse to solve differences. Migrants can leave the camp only if they use their fingerprints to pass through steel-turnstile checkpoints so that the camp authorities know where they are at all times.

They are counted in at night and each migrant has been vetted to ensure they are not a terrorist trying to slip in posing as a refugee, or posing any other security threat.

And it is a regime that could be coming to Britain soon. ‘This is the model of migrant camp that England hopes to copy.

‘Your Home Secretary Priti Patel has come here to see it for herself,’ says Demitrius Axiotis, the 56-year-old former Greek army officer who runs what is called the closed control access centre on Samos. 

‘In three or four months we will have 3,000 migrants living here and we will be full. We are expecting Afghans fleeing the Taliban to arrive very soon on the traffickers’ boats from Turkey to Samos. They will be brought here and treated just the same as all the others.’

The camp is divided into colour-coded zones: Afghans (blue), Africans (red) and Arabs (green) all separated to stop fights between the factions who accuse each other of racism and use fists or worse to solve differences

The camp is divided into colour-coded zones: Afghans (blue), Africans (red) and Arabs (green) all separated to stop fights between the factions who accuse each other of racism and use fists or worse to solve differences

At least 20,000 migrants are expected to have arrived by boat to our south coast from France by the end of 2021

At least 20,000 migrants are expected to have arrived by boat to our south coast from France by the end of 2021

This week the Daily Mail was the first British newspaper to visit the controversial camp, built out of the desperate need to stem the migrant flow from Turkey where four million wait to illegally enter Greece. The European Union has erected an important-looking sign outside the formidable structure that makes clear this is no holiday camp. Over the next year, more Greek islands in the east Aegean will also open ‘closed’ camps, with the EU footing the £200 million bill.

On Samos, the camp was born of necessity. Until this summer, 9,000 migrants had the run of the island. They lived in a rat-infested shanty village without lights, hot water or sanitation right beside Samos’s capital, until it was bulldozed and most of the inhabitants sent to Athens.

Mr Axiotis says for years there were more migrants in Samos’s main town than its 6,000 residents. ‘That was not right,’ he explains. ‘It was not fair on Samos people and we had to think about their safety. Greece is a devoutly Christian country and the islanders worried the boats coming to the island were carrying strangers.’

Of course, not everyone sees it this way. Patrick Wieland, the Samos field co-ordinator of the humanitarian charity Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), believes the new camp is little more than a prison. ‘It is a fortress stopping escape,’ he says at his small office in Samos’s port. ‘It is there to contain migrants and actively deter others from coming over from Turkey. It is criminalising people who have done nothing wrong and want only to make fresh lives in Europe.’

So could this Greek island’s authoritarian style of camp really be a possible solution for England’s own migrant crisis? The answer, it seems, could be yes. At least 20,000 migrants are expected to have arrived by boat to our south coast from France by the end of 2021. Most already here are in hotels paid for by the taxpayer. It is a situation that cannot go on forever, which is why the Home Secretary came here in August to meet Mr Axiotis at the Samos camp.

The European Union has erected an important-looking sign outside the formidable structure that makes clear this is no holiday camp. Over the next year, more Greek islands in the east Aegean will also open ‘closed’ camps, with the EU footing the £200 million bill

The European Union has erected an important-looking sign outside the formidable structure that makes clear this is no holiday camp. Over the next year, more Greek islands in the east Aegean will also open ‘closed’ camps, with the EU footing the £200 million bill

A Nationality and Borders Bill is currently going through Parliament, with the same aim of helping real refugees and weeding out the rest. It is understood that if it gets approval next year, the new camps will be high on the agenda soon afterwards

A Nationality and Borders Bill is currently going through Parliament, with the same aim of helping real refugees and weeding out the rest. It is understood that if it gets approval next year, the new camps will be high on the agenda soon afterwards

It was then six weeks away from opening but Ms Patel looked at the floor plans, toured the site under construction and was told of the ultra-secure deportation wing, to be finished by Christmas, for incarcerating inmates rejected for asylum in Europe and with no right to stay.

According to Mr Axiotis, she heard how the Greek coastguard is also pushing back migrants at sea towards Turkey, a contentious policy about to be introduced by the British in the Channel using Border Force jet ski teams to nudge boats back towards northern France. The Home Office believes Samos-style camps on British soil will make the UK less alluring and reduce illegal Channel crossings.

For who would want to end up living in a camp like it? The story peddled by people-smuggling gangs to drum up their trade is that England is a soft touch, a land of milk and honey where migrants are instantly housed in four-star accommodation or a council house with no questions asked.

The prospect of being locked up in a prison-like fortress, with speedy deportations and rigorous vetting to root out those coming here to harm us, would be far less enticing for people falsely claiming asylum.

‘Camps like Samos would make Britain a safer place for everyone, including the genuine asylum seekers who deserve our help,’ Home Office sources have told us.

A Nationality and Borders Bill is currently going through Parliament, with the same aim of helping real refugees and weeding out the rest. It is understood that if it gets approval next year, the new camps will be high on the agenda soon afterwards.

In Samos, we talked to migrants about what they thought of camp life. Most were put there because they have repeatedly been refused asylum in Greece. They are mightily displeased that they have been stopped from journeying onwards to Germany, Scandinavia, the Netherlands or, favourite of all, England.

In hut 126 in the Arab zone, we found an Iraqi Kurd family of four who, until it was pulled down in September, lived in the squalid Samos jungle camp for five years. Now they are in a two-bedroom hut with a kitchen, bathroom and never-ending hot water from the camp’s solar power system. But they are not happy with their lot.

Most refugees are put in the Greek camp (Above) because they have repeatedly been refused asylum in Greece. They are mightily displeased that they have been stopped from journeying onwards to Germany, Scandinavia, the Netherlands or, favourite of all, England

Most refugees are put in the Greek camp (Above) because they have repeatedly been refused asylum in Greece. They are mightily displeased that they have been stopped from journeying onwards to Germany, Scandinavia, the Netherlands or, favourite of all, England

This is a migrant camp with a difference. Its rules are unbending and a loudspeaker blares out messages about meal times in multiple languages to the inmates

This is a migrant camp with a difference. Its rules are unbending and a loudspeaker blares out messages about meal times in multiple languages to the inmates

‘I am angry,’ says the 40-year-old father Mahamad Mahamad. ‘I came to Greece by boat from Turkey and I want my 12-year-old daughter and son to have a good school and us a good house. That is what I and my wife Nyaz expected…

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