On the night of the 8th September, a fire broke out and destroyed the whole Moria RIC. The fire started in several locations inside the camp after 35 people were tested positive for COVID and were told to isolate themselves within the camp without any proper quarantine facility.
Over 12700 people had to flee the burning site. Children, Women and Men trying to rescue themselves from the fire were met with tear gas and road blockades by the police. At the end of September, the Police are investigating six young refugees for starting the fires. No one was injured by the fire.
12’700 people on the streets
Between the 8th and the 17th of September, the people from Moria RIC were forced to sleep outside, on the street and on the beaches with nothing but what they could rescue from the fire. A few people were temporarily sheltered in boats at the harbor. For the rest, food supply, shelter and sanitation installations were absent. Nonetheless, not a single person wanted to be back in Moria RIC.
NGOs such as One Happy Family once more stepped up and provided with support of local Greeks every support they could, which is of course by far not enough. Europe must act!
A new “temporary” tent camp is built in the Kara Tepe area. It should have the capacity of 12’000 people. But. The tents do not fit any minimum standard, they are built without any kind of flooring, no isolation and sometimes not even sleeping options. On the 17th of September, people were huddled inside by massive police force. Media and journalists were not allowed inside the new setup. Most people did not want to enter the new facility, as they are afraid of being locked up again for several months inside and trapped in similar inhumane circumstances as in Moria RIC. However, they were left with little choice as the Greek authorities announced they will only proceed with asylum cases of the people who register in the new facility.
Inadequate reactions on the ground and from the politics
Tents are no adequate solution for the winter in Lesvos. The whole world learnt that in the winter 2015/16 when people froze to death, or died trying to stay warm. What is needed, is a political solution; a EU migration policy 2.0 not a Moria 2.0. The new EU Migration Compact announced on the 23rd of September has not solved the problems faced on the Aegean Islands. The new measures mostly focus on speeding up asylum processes but fail once more to establish a system where human dignity is granted and basic human rights are met.
You find more impressions from the new facility here: https://www.facebook.com/AegeanBoatReport/photos/pcb.924537871402651/924547721401666
The badly constructed new facility seems to fit into Greeks intention to deter people from coming to Lesvos. The inhumane conditions in Moria RIC to signal to people who wanted to cross the mediterranean sea: “it is bad over here, don’t come here.” The new temporary structure enforces this message. The refusal of Greece to let 1500 refugees pass on to Germany is another sign of Greece’s acceptance of the suffering of human beings. Something that cannot and should not be accepted by the other European countries.
We have heard that the EU is willing to help. The only way to help is to create a consistent relocation scheme that can provide relief to the Greek government, its locals and asylum seekers. We know and are a testimony against the strong anti-migration policies that the Greek government has installed since its election in July 2019. With no durable solutions from the EU, the Greek government will only further its master plan of closed camps and push backs to deter people from reaching the hotspots.
Fast spreading of COVID
More than 240 cases are reported from the new temporary camp in Kara Tepe, as of the 21st of September. The first confirmed case of COVID was recorded on 2nd September, with 35 positive cases confirmed by the 9th September. The first reaction of officials was to put the whole old Moria camp under quarantine for two weeks without any additional health support inside the camp.
At the new facility, two quarantine zones have been announced, but not yet in place. The risk for COVID to spread in such a chaotic and devastating situation is quickly emerging. However COVID seems the last thing on people’s minds; people are still trying to seek safety within one of the most inhumane conditions in Europe. On arrival to the new camp, all asylum-seekers are receiving the rapid PCR tests in order to monitor the spread of COVID.
The first boat that arrived this month was on September 6th with about 25 people on board, including women, men and children. This was the first boat arrival since August 12th. The worrying trend of rigorous push backs seems to continue: 24 boats have been stopped and denied entry into European waters whereas only 3 boats arrived on Lesvos until the 20th of September.
Number of People on the Aegean Islands
As of 18th September, the Greek government reports 12,767 people in Moria, although the camp does not exist anymore. A total of 14548 people are counted to be on Lesvos, 3746 on Chios, 4821 on Samos and around 3400 on the other Aegean Islands. This leads up to a total of over 26400 people currently stuck while Europe keeps discussing migration policies.
After the first confirmed COVID case in Moria RIC, transfers to the mainland were set on hold. After the fire, the EU announced to transfer 400 unaccompanied minors to the Greek mainland.
During the 10 days where people were left in the streets and at the beaches, a spontaneous demonstration sparked. Chanting women led big groups of peacefully demonstrating migrants and refugees with children towards Mytilini, demanding their freedom. The local police, backed up by a police reinforcement from the mainland, hindered the protest, by using tear gas against these women and children, from reaching Mytilini.