Friday

22nd Oct 2021

Asylum seeker stuck almost three years in Moria camp

  • Moria is designed for 3,000 people - but currently hosts over 20,000 (Photo: Spyros V. Oikonomou)

When the European Commission announced its 'hotspot' concept in 2015, to shuffle migrants into camps on Greek islands, it also promised a quick turnover on asylum applications.

But for 50-year old Anny Nganga, an asylum seeker from Kinshasa, DR Congo, the commission's hotspot concept has been a living nightmare.

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In 2017 she arrived alone in Moria, an EU hotspot on the Greek island of Lesbos, and has been living there in a shared tent without heating ever since.

"I suffer in Moria, I suffer. I have no money, what am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to do?," she told EUobserver last week.

"There are problems every day, they stole my phone," she said, breaking down in tears. Nganga had since obtained a new phone, a lifeline to family, to lawyers, and to asylum services.

Not knowing her own status, she is forced to contend with an uncertain future in a camp recently described by the head of the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency, Michael O'Flaherty, as the "single most worrying fundamental rights issue" anywhere in the bloc.

Moria is designed for 3,000 people but is home to well over 20,000.

Her lawyer told EUobserver that Nganga is a victim of trafficking and has only a primary school education.

To add to her woes, Nganga had been prosecuted for carrying fake identity papers. It went to court. The court threw out the case. It had been a misunderstanding, said her lawyer.

Nganga's initial request for asylum was denied. She filed a new application in the hopes of getting refugee status or protection based on humanitarian grounds. The file is still pending.

Commission defends hotspot

Her experience casts a long shadow over EU commission's self-praise for the hotspots, which it declared a success only late last year.

"Hotspots have been established as an operational model to quickly and efficiently respond in locations under pressure," said Dimitris Avramopoulos in October, when he was commissioner for migration.

Less than a month later, an EU commission spokesperson made similar comments, claiming its hotspot approach in Greece had "helped improve the management of migration flows."

Although some 41,312 people have been transferred from Lesbos island to the mainland since August 2017, the place remains overcrowded and tense.

Only last week protests mainly led by Afghan asylum seekers broke out, given a new Greek asylum law that gives priority to new arrivals over people who have been on the islands for longer.

Squads of Greek riot police then fired tear gas into crowds, which included both women and children.

Two days later the head of the regional government of the Northern Aegean, Kostas Moutzouris demanded a state of emergency on the island.

"It's a powder keg ready to explode," he told Skai TV.

The director of the International Rescue Committee, Dimitra Kalogeropoulou, drew similar conclusions.

She told this website something needs to be done to ease the high tension between local islanders and the migrants.

Among the solutions floated is for other EU states to step in and help, an idea that has so far failed to gain any traction.

When asked why conditions on the islands remain persistently dire, Kalogeropoulou pointed her finger at the lack of long-term planning.

"Having people arriving without having ways for people to exit while their asylum application has been fairly examined brings the country into a dead-end," she said.

For Nganga, that dead-end has been a daily reality since 2017.

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The 14,000 migrants trapped on the Greek island of Lesbos has been described as "the single most worrying fundamental rights issue that we are confronting anywhere in the European Union" by the head of the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency.

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Residents on the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios have been met with riot police, following protests against plans to erect new migrant detention camps. The European Commission says measures by Athens' authorities must be "necessary and proportionate."

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