Overall, there are 3000 immigrants and refugees stranded on the island of Chios. In VIAL, which is an ”open prison” for more than 1300 people, complaints regarding the squalid conditions of detention, the bad quality of food and the discriminatory treatment by the police have been recorded since the first day of its operation.
Things became significantly worse after July 28th, when refugees refused to eat any food in protest against the bad quality of the meals provided in the detention centre. A few days later, following the incidents that erupted during the protests and the injury of a police officer from a stone that was thrown, the operators of the detention centre stopped handing out meals.
On the 7th of August refugees contacted volunteers and human rights groups to complain about the situation. The refugees, including hundreds of children, were only being given bread and water. On the 8th of August, the same thing repeated. The refugees wrote messages on the surfaces of containers in a desperate need to communicate and bring their issue to the public eye: “No food, no water”. Complaints among refugees have increasingly become more common.
The first ”normal” meal was provided after three days, on the 9th of August: a mixture of lentils and rice which most people couldn’t eat.
This prompts serious questions: Why was no food given to refugees for three days? Who called for this and who followed those orders? Who is going to be held accountable?
Other complaints concern the discrimination of the police against refugees, mostly those from Northern Africa and this is something members of human rights organizations who have access inside the detention centre have discussed off the record. There were also complaints about the arbitrary actions of the police with the aim to target black people. According to a refugee, forced removals to Souda camp were attempted by the police:
“Υesterday a police come in our room saying we have to get out off that room and go to Souda and we told him no and never. Are black we need to go Souda because blacks are there and we say we don’t want to go nowhere, only Athens that’s all”
This 5-month detention on the island has brought people to their wit’s end.
VIAL has turned into a black hole: nobody knows what goes on inside, volunteers are not allowed to enter the campsite, there is no way to hold the police accountable, other authorities prefer to turn a blind eye and local media are not bothered about the situation. But it is unacceptable to tolerate the existence of a dumping ground for humans. The only solution is to respect the refugees’ demand for freedom.