On Sunday, October 11, Mohammad was lying on the road, holding his foot and screaming in pain. “You treat us worse than dogs!” he shouted at the hospital. A twenty-year-old refugee from the province of Homs in Syria he, like so many of his countrymen, had fled the war in an attempt to build a life in Europe. He arrived on the Greek island of Samos, where he has been living for the last thirteen months.
Mohammad is one of over 2.5 million refugees who since 2015 have been fleeing war, torture and rape—mostly in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq—and making their way to Europe. Many of them used Samos, Lesbos and several other Aegean islands as the gateway, making the short but dangerous crossing from Turkey in ramshackle boats. Initially they were permitted to continue to the Greek mainland and eventually on to Western Europe. However, the 2016 agreement between Turkey and the European Union forced asylum seekers to remain on the islands, turning them into virtual prisons. There they would stay—some of them for years—in abhorrent conditions, living in overcrowded, filthy camps that have been compared to concentration camps.