Sunday

16th May 2021

Greek island community-run refugee shelters under threat

  • Pikpa is community-led refugee camp on Lesbos island, which offers more humane shelter than that found at the now burnt down Moria camp (Photo: Lesvos Solidarity)

The Greek government is threatening to shut down two community refugee camps on the island of Lesbos.

One of them is Pikpa, which describes itself as an independent self-organised space for people that are in need of extra care.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Pikpa is a former children's summer camp, transformed in 2012 by Greek locals to help get refugees and asylum seekers off the streets.

Today it is home to some 100 people, including those that identify with the LGBTi community like 37-year old Shahram.

To protect his identity, the last name is not being disclosed.

"I have been living here for almost three months. We feel like a family here together," he told EUobserver by phone on Friday (9 October).

Shahram is from Iran and had arrived alone on the Greek island. He was first shuffled into the now burnt-out EU hotspot camp known as Moria, where he had stayed almost nine months.

"When I first entered Moria, I was shocked. I found myself with more than 20,000 people, all strangers," he said.

Pikpa in comparison is a sanctuary of peace where everyone gets along, said Shahram.

"Everyone is just living. Everyone respects each other, there is no violence."

In 2016, two of Pikpa's founders were awarded the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) humanitarian prize for their efforts.

Now the Greek government wants to shut it down, along with Kara Tepe, another larger community run camp. The Greek authorities did not respond when asked for eviction dates or where it intends to put everyone.

But Shahram worries evictions may start next week and that he will be forced to the new temporary facility that replaced Moria on the island.

As a single LGBTi male, he fears he'll meet the same violence at the new camp he faced in Moria.

Authorities are only moving children and families with children from the new camp to the mainland and elsewhere, leaving single males behind.

"Please save us. Please save Pikpa and please care about us," said Shahram.

Carmen Dupont of Lesvos Solidarity, an NGO operating in Pikpa, said that the camp is also giving back to the local community.

"With the pandemic we have facilitated over €200,000 in donations to the local hospital structures that were not getting support from the authorities," she pointed out.

She said Pikpa has become a shelter for the most vulnerable people on the island, including victims of torture, others suffering from cancer, single women with newborns and unaccompanied minors.

"We are an independent place, we don't accept state, EU funding. We find our own funding," she said, noting the large amounts of EU money going into the EU-funded camp that is now replacing Moria.

The closure announcement was recently made in the Greek press.

Conditions worsen at new EU-funded camp

The EU-funded camp is a tent city for some 10,000 people and sits on the edge of the island, more exposed to the weather.

The commission in September said it was giving the Greek authorities some €750,000 in emergency funding to support immediate humanitarian needs of those left stranded following the Moria fire.

Around a dozen EU states also announced they were donating shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene products, and medical assistance to the new camp.

Those announcements were followed by reports that almost 250 people at the new camp had tested positive for Covid-19.

On Friday, the UNHCR issued a statement saying the conditions at the camp are critical.

"Living conditions in the emergency site remain in urgent need of improvement," it said, noting rains that have flooded areas.

Asked to explain, the European Commission said the new camp is only a temporary measure.

"As the commission is not managing the situation, it is very hard for me to do so," said a spokesperson.

"However also I think it is important to note that the camp was not entirely flooded and so it wasn't a question of a completely inadequate design specifically but simply of a situation which resulted from the rains," he said.

As for the possible closure of Pikpa, he said the Commission is stepping up efforts to support the Greek government to provide adequate shelter for people and the evacuation to the mainland.

"So yes, we definitely care about the people affected by the fires on Lesbos," he said, when asked to respond to Shahram's plea.

EU seeks political accord on migration this year

The German EU presidency is striving to sort a political agreement on the migration and asylum pact before the end of the year. In reality, it means two months when factoring Christmas holidays.

EU migration pact to deter asylum

The EU commission's newest pact on migration and asylum seeks to deter people from claiming asylum by speeding up procedures and sending most of them back home.

Asylum seeker stuck almost three years in Moria camp

Anny Nganga, an asylum seeker from DR Congo, has been surviving for almost three years in Moria, a camp on Lesbos island that was recently described as the "single most worrying fundamental rights issue anywhere in the European Union".

Greece closes humane camp for refugees, sends them to Moria

A model camp for asylum seekers on the Greek island of Lesbos is being shut down by the Greek authorities as residents are being taken to 'Moria 2.0', a lead-contaminated sprawling ghetto perched on the edge of the island.

News in Brief

  1. No EUobserver newsletter on Friday 14 May
  2. Germany stops Facebook gathering WhatsApp data
  3. Italy rebuts reports of EU deal with Libya
  4. MEPs demand EU states protect women's reproductive rights
  5. At least nine dead in Russia school shooting
  6. Bulgaria interim government appointed until July election
  7. German priests defy pope to bless same-sex couples
  8. New EU public prosecutor faults Slovenia

Feature

Frontex 'mislabelling minors as adults' on Greek islands

Lawyers in Greece accuse Frontex of incorrectly labeling minors as 'adults', a violation. Among them was 17-year old William, sent to the adult section of Moria, where he says he was abused. He was later able to prove his age.

EU commission calls Frontex its new 'Return Agency'

The EU's law enforcement agency Frontex has been helping member states return unwanted migrants. The European Commission now wants it to take a lead role, while hoping to boost the number of voluntary deportations.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050
  2. French police arrest Luxembourg former top spy
  3. Vaccine drives spur better-than-expected EU economic recovery
  4. Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office
  5. 'No place to hide' in Gaza, as fighting escalates
  6. EU chases 90m AstraZeneca vaccines in fresh legal battle
  7. Fidesz MEP oversees FOI appeals on disgraced Fidesz MEP
  8. Belgium outlines summer Covid relaxation plans

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us