EU’s £37million migrant centre will provide clean, safe accommodation for 3,000 arrivals

It’s a far cry from the chaotic British system, where many migrants are picked up off beaches and placed in random hotels, B&Bs and hostels.

This new purpose-built facility on the Greek island of Samos has the capacity to house 3,000 asylum seekers in clean, safe, container-style accommodation units.

On site, there are seven basketball courts, three playgrounds, a football pitch and eight canteen-style restaurants, as well as the air-conditioned living quarters.

Those who arrive on Samos from north Africa and the Middle East are free to come and go from the centre which is just a stone’s throw from the clear blue Aegean Sea.

The gates will be open from 8am to 8pm, with a bus running to and from the main town four times a day.

A purpose-built £37million facility (pictured) on the Greek island of Samos has the capacity to hold 3,000 asylum seekers with basketball courts and playgrounds site as well as container-style accommodation units

A purpose-built £37million facility (pictured) on the Greek island of Samos has the capacity to hold 3,000 asylum seekers with basketball courts and playgrounds site as well as container-style accommodation units

A purpose-built £37million facility (pictured) on the Greek island of Samos has the capacity to hold 3,000 asylum seekers with basketball courts and playgrounds site as well as container-style accommodation units

Six years after a million Syrians fleeing civil war crossed the country en route to mainland Europe, the camp is being presented as a ‘swifter and fairer’ means of processing asylum seekers than the current jumble of ad-hoc solutions. 

The £37million facility has not received universal praise however, with some criticising it as ‘prison-like’ because of its high fences and watchtowers along the perimeter.

But it is a far more humane destination than the dangerous and insanitary conditions experienced by migrants in the shanty towns it replaces, the Greek government says. 

Officials have this week begun moving asylum-seekers who were living in a squalid camp near Vathy, Samos’s main town, into the new facility, dubbed a ‘closed controlled access centre’.

Those who arrive on Samos from north Africa and the Middle East are free to come and go from the centre with the gates (pictured) open from 8am to 8pm, and a bus running to and from the main town four times a day

Those who arrive on Samos from north Africa and the Middle East are free to come and go from the centre with the gates (pictured) open from 8am to 8pm, and a bus running to and from the main town four times a day

Those who arrive on Samos from north Africa and the Middle East are free to come and go from the centre with the gates (pictured) open from 8am to 8pm, and a bus running to and from the main town four times a day

Neat and clean: A migrant and his cat settle in at the new air-conditioned living quarters

Neat and clean: A migrant and his cat settle in at the new air-conditioned living quarters

Neat and clean: A migrant and his cat settle in at the new air-conditioned living quarters

It could provide inspiration for asylum accommodation the Government wants to build in the UK as a long-term alternative to temporary hotel and hostel rooms. The site was even visited by Home Secretary Priti Patel last month.

Currently, most asylum seekers in the UK are housed at the taxpayers’ expense, with the cost of the system rocketing by more than a third last year to nearly £1.4billion.

Official figures show 62,817 asylum seekers were receiving taxpayer-funded support at the end of June. The majority are provided with free accommodation, either social housing or privately rented.

But as the number of arrivals across the Channel soared last year the Home Office was forced to use hotel accommodation.

Rescued in the Channel: Individuals are helped ashore at Dungeness, Kent

Rescued in the Channel: Individuals are helped ashore at Dungeness, Kent

Right, migrants on the seafront at Hythe, near Folkestone

Right, migrants on the seafront at Hythe, near Folkestone

In the UK however, many migrants are picked up off beaches (pictured left in Dungeness, Kent) and placed in random hotels, B&Bs and hostels. Pictured right: Migrants on the seafront at Hythe, near Folkestone

Earlier this week the Home Office’s top civil servant Matthew Rycroft told MPs that hotels would be used for asylum seekers – including those who have fled Afghanistan – for years to come.

The Samos facility is the first of five planned by the EU, with Brussels earmarking £215million in total for similar reception centres to be built on the other Greek islands of Kos, Leros, Lesbos and Chios. Greece has become the primary route for migration by boat into Europe. But Patrick Wieland, of Medecins Sans Frontieres, has likened the new centre to a prison.

He said: ‘This is the perfect illustration of how criminal the EU policy on migration is – holding and detaining people who are escaping violence and punishing them for wanting to be safe. It is a disgrace.’

Greek migration minister Notis Mitarachi has insisted his country ‘will not be a gateway for flows of illegal migrants to Europe’ and it will be ‘protecting decisively the external borders of the EU’.

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