GREECE / SAMOS ISLAND REFUGEES

09-Mar-2018 00:04:00
On Greece's Samos Island, about 1,400 refugees are braving harsh winter conditions at the island's sole reception center. One Syrian family, after months in the overcrowded facility, has secured a transfer to the mainland, where the UN Refugee Agency is helping to provide safer housing and a fresh start after the trauma of war. UNHCR
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STORY: GREECE / SAMOS ISLAND REFUGEES
TRT: 4:00
SOURCE: UNHCR
RESTRICTION: PLEASE CREDIT UNHCR ON SCREEN
LANGUAGE: ARABIC / ENGLISH / NATS

DATELINE: 12-13 FEBRUARY 2018, SAMOS, GREECE / FERRY BOAT FROM SAMOS TO PIRAEUS PORT, ATHENS, GREECE
SHOTLIST
1. Wide shot, a refugee walking in between of crammed tents with muddy passageway
2. Close up, muddy passageway
3.Wide shot, refugee camp
4.Med shot, refugees
5. Close up, hands
6. Wide shot, refugee camp
7. Wide shot, a refugee girl
8. Wide shot, refugee camp
9. SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Ahmed, Kurdish refugee:
"Some people aren't even showering at all here because, first of all, there is no hot water. The showers are broken. Often there's no water. They are very dirty and some people are using them as toilets."
10. Wide shot, Syrian refugee mother Hanaa Al Hajer looking at rats behind her tent
11. Wide shot, rats
12. SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohamad Al Hajer, Syrian refugee:
"As you can see, there is a rat problem in the tents. There are also bed bugs which have given us a rash."
13. Wide shot, Al Hajer family
14. Wide shot, Hanaa
15. Close up, Al Hajer’s daughters
16. Wide shot, Al Hajer family
17. SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohamad Al Hajer, Syrian refugee:
"We had really different expectations for the camp. The situation is difficult."
18. Close up, Greek flag flying over the entrance of the camp
19. Wide shot, camp entrance
20. Wide shot, a disabled refugee
21. SOUNDBITE (English) Leo Dobbs, Spokesperson, UNHCR Greece:
"It is a new situation for the government. It didn't have the capacity before, but it's been building the capacity but a lot more needs to be done. More professionals need to be sent here. There must be ways of getting the more vulnerable people off the island more quickly.
22. Close up, the ferry's info board
23. Wide shot, Al Hajer family arriving to board the ferry
24. Wide shot, ferry
25. Med shot, Hanna holding her daughter
26. Wide shot, Mohamad carrying the family's belongings
27. Wide shot, family getting into the ferry
28. Wide shot, family walking in-between the seats
30. Wide shot, the sea
31. Med shot, Hanna holding her daughter
32. Med shot, Mohamad and her daughter looking at the sea
33. Med shot, water
34. Med shot, Mohamad and her daughter looking at the sea
35. Wide shot, the land
36. Wide shot, family arriving to mainland Greece
37. SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohamad Al Hajer, Syrian refugee:
"My happiness is indescribable, Thank God we are here safe and sound. We are hoping for the best."
38. Wide shot, family in front of the hotel building
39. Wide shot, Mohamad carrying the family's belongings into the hotel
40. SOUNDBITE (English) Leo Dobbs, Spokesperson, UNHCR Greece:
"The accommodation scheme that we run is funded by the EU and it's implemented by partners of ours. Last year we created 22,000 places in apartment buildings and renovated buildings."
41. Wide shot, the family in the hotel lobby
42. Wide shot, the family on the rooftop terrace of their hotel
43. Close up, Mohamad holding his daughter
44. Wide shot, the family
45. Wide shot, Acropolis
46. Wide shot, family on the rooftop
STORYLINE
Braving winter, in bare conditions….

This is the Vathy reception center on Samos Island in Greece.

More than 1,400 refugees live in the overcrowded site.

That's double its capacity.

Half of the population are women and children.

Unsanitary conditions pose a daily challenge.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Ahmed, Kurdish refugee:
"Some people aren't even showering at all here because, first of all, there is no hot water. The showers are broken. Often there's no water. They are very dirty and some people are using them as toilets."

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohamad Al Hajer, Syrian refugee:
"As you can see, there is a rat problem in the tents. There are also bed bugs which have given us a rash."

Mohamed and his family crossed the sea from Turkey two months ago.

An air strike in Syria had destroyed their home.

Little Maria suffers from post-traumatic stress.

She witnessed her uncle die in an air raid.

Mohamad lost his fingers in a bombing.

Grateful for safety from war, he still worries for his family here.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohamad Al Hajer, Syrian refugee: "We had really different expectations for the camp. The situation is difficult."

The Greek government took on total management of the response to refugee arrivals in the summer of 2017.

A time when numbers of sea arrivals began to increase again.

SOUNDBITE (English) Leo Dobbs, Spokesperson, UNHCR Greece :
"It is a new situation for the government. It didn't have the capacity but it's been building the capacity but a lot more needs to be done. There must be ways of getting the more vulnerable people off the island more quickly."

The Al Hajer family is now getting a chance to leave the island.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), facilitates the move after the government gives a green light for the transfer.

Mohamad, Hanaa and the girls first board a ferry in the Samos port.

The overnight journey to Athens takes 9 hours.

Time to imagine a new life.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohamad Al Hajer, Syrian refugee:
"My happiness is indescribable, Thank God we are here safe and sound. We are hoping for the best."

The first stop is a hotel, a temporary stay.

UNHCR plans to provide a house for the family.

SOUNDBITE (English) Leo Dobbs, Spokesperson, UNHCR Greece:
"The accommodation scheme that we run is funded by the EU and it's implemented by partners of ours. Last year we created 22,000 places in apartments and renovated buildings."

More than 2,200 refugees have been able to leave Samos for the mainland since October 2017.

Mohamad and Hanaa want their girls to go to school.

Medical treatment for Mohamad's hand and help for their traumatized daughter.

The family is grateful to be here.

They have made a long journey to safety.

There were about 11,000 refugees in February 2017 living on the Greek islands. The largest populations remain on Lesvos and Chios, followed by Samos. Conditions in the so-called "hot spots" can be difficult, with overcrowded tents, unsanitary conditions and exposure to harsh winter weather. On Samos Island, the Vathy "reception and identification center" (RIC), originally constructed as a detention facility for refugees and migrants in 2007, has a capacity of 700 beds but is now hosting more than 1,400 refugees.

Since the EU-Turkey Statement of March 2016 and the closure of the northern border for unrestrictive onward movement, which was followed by a drastic reduction in arrivals on the islands, those reaching Samos by the irregular sea route spend time in Vathy RIC, which occupies a thin sliver of land on the side of a steep hill. The situation there started to deteriorate from August last year, when arrival numbers started to increase and outpace transfers at a time when the government was assuming overall management of the response to the refugee situation. The numbers were not comparable to the emergency of 2015-2016, but still sufficient to severely stretch the government's resources and capacity and cause grave concern. And people spend longer on the islands.

While acknowledging the challenges facing the government and the valuable progress made, UNHCR and other organizations have been urging the authorities to continue measures to tackle the difficulties on the islands. This includes the speedier deployment of health officials to the RICs as well as continuing mainland transfers.

Over 5,600 asylum-seekers on Samos have moved mainland since October 2016 but more needs to be done and at a faster pace. UNHCR is providing support with the transfer of persons who have received the required documentation and authorization to travel mainland from the Greek government. Once on mainland, vulnerable asylum seekers are referred to UNHCR's accommodation scheme and provided with rented housing, medical and social support services. In total, since November 2015, 40,867 individuals have benefitted from the scheme.
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