The arrival of migrants into Greece peaked in October 2015, when over 200,000 migrants sought asylum.  By comparison, today’s numbers are miniscule (in June 2019, there were 'only' 4,000). The news has moved on but for the migrants being held on the Greek islands the story remains just as meaningful. On the Greek island of Samos in the Aegean Sea, only a mile from Turkey, a Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) with an official capacity of 648 is currently home to thousands of migrants. The UN has put the official number at 2,793 however the reality is likely to be far higher due to the lack of any official means of counting the people living under tarpaulin and makeshift shelter in the hills surrounding the official camp.  

 

The Samos RIC camp was built as a temporary reception centre but many migrants have found themselves held there for months in the most appalling conditions. It falls under the jurisdiction of central Greek Government, with only irrigation and waste collection falling to the municipality.  The mayor's office had repeatedly requested assistance from the Greek Central Government, but according to a spokesman for the Mayor, their requests have gone unanswered for years.  

The camp manager has refused access to journalists and to the municipality. That said, the bulk of the migrants live in the hills surrounding the camp and so are free to talk to journalists to share their experiences.  This set of images shows how migrants are living, how they pass their time and the ways in which they are attempting to form a community.  The set includes some portraits.  When I reviewed my images from the entire assignment, the one thing that struck me was the haunting look in everyone’s eyes, even when they smiled for the camera.  I wondered if the sadness was attributed more to the countries that they had fled, the terrifying risks they took to get to Greece or to the appalling conditions in which they were now forced to live, whilst the rest of the world turned a blind eye.

​Photographs by Lexie © 2018 Alexandra Harrison-Cripps                                                                                                                     

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