Tuesday

5th Mar 2024

Reality bites EU's 'No More Morias' pledge

  • The Kara Tepe camp in Lesbos has been dubbed 'Moria 2.0' (Photo: Choose Love)

After the sprawling Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos burned down last year, the EU and its leadership declared an end to such ghetto-like conditions.

But its replacement, which many have dubbed 'Moria 2.0', has felt like an empty promise for those currently freezing in tents with no heating.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

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

... or subscribe as a group

Among them is 18-year old Yasser Akbari, who arrived from Afghanistan almost two years ago.

"I think the biggest difference is the people," he said, when asked to describe the conditions at the old camp compared with its new replacement.

"I saw people in the previous camp, they had some sort of look, they had some sort, I don't know, an expectation for the future, which they don't have now," he told EUobserver over the phone on Thursday (21 January).

Moria 2.0, officially known as a Kara Tepe, is now home to some 7,100 refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants.

Perched on a former shooting range at the edge of the island, the camp is exposed to the wind and driving rain from the sea.

Earlier this month, the first snow in years only added to the misery of those having to endure already cold and wet conditions.

Generator-fed electricity is only available for a few hours a day and is mostly used to power lights and mobile telephones.

"Even in the previous camp, in the first Moria, we had this problem. When it was winter, for the entire season we didn't have electricity," said Akbari.

No electricity or running water

There is no running water in Kara Tepe. Instead it is trucked in. And showers didn't arrive until mid-December, months after the camp was first built.

Akbari says the fear of the pandemic has only compounded the problems they face.

People are allowed to leave the camp under strict conditions but must return before an early evening curfew or face a €500 fine, if caught.

That is an impossible sum, says Akbari. He says the camp food is also poor.

"Most of the time we receive food where the rice is not even cooked, it is raw and the meats are outdated," he said.

Although there is more police presence than in the old Moria, horror stories of rape and violence against women and children still emerge.

Last December, a three-year old girl was found bleeding and unconscious in a camp toilet.

She had been raped, a diagnosis confirmed by local medical staff.

A German federal minister has accused the Greek government of negligence, noting that doctors have had to treat babies with rat bites.

Two families sometimes have to share a single tent, using a blanket to divide it into two for some privacy.

With conditions so bad, the Greek ministry of asylum and migration ordered NGOs and all other personnel "not to disclose, make public, reveal or dispose" information about the camp.

The issue has riled some MEPs.

In a European Parliament debate last week, Dutch MEP Sophia In 't Veld accused the EU of hypocrisy.

"Do we all remember the debate last summer where we said, 'No More Morias'? And yet again we are looking at images of people living in mud, children walking barefoot," she said.

"Where is president [Ursula] von der Leyen, where is commissioner [Margaritis] Schinas who is responsible for our 'European Way of Life'. Is this our European way of life, honestly?"

European Commission vice-president Schinas has argued that Moria was due to a "lack of Europe", given the lack of member state solidarity with Greece.

But it is also worth noting the European Commission itself created the so-called 'hotspot' concept that led to Moria.

And it has consistently denied direct responsibility, pointing the finger at the government in Athens.

When people in Moria woke up to heavy snow in early 2017, the commission declared the situation as "untenable".

"Ensuring adequate reception conditions in Greece is a responsibility of Greek authorities," an EU commission spokesperson said at the time.

Now it has declared a more hands-on approach, setting up a taskforce with the Greek authorities to create a more permanent facility sometime in September this year.

For its part, the European Commission says it has been working intensively together with the Greek authorities to improve the situation in the temporary camp. But construction for the new permanent site has yet to start.

Fabian Bracher, a field manager in Lesbos for the charity Choose Love, says the location for the new building is far away from the local islanders.

"By foot to the nearest village with shops, it takes about one hour to walk," he said.

EUobserved

Moria is EU's shame

The European Commission will attempt to spin its way out of bearing any responsibility for the disaster that is Moria. Piecemeal efforts to help those in Moria will not resolve a policy Brussels created.

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".

New Greek rules stigmatise NGOs working with migrants

New rules in Greece single out NGOs that work with refugees and asylum, in what the Athens government say is a bid to create greater transparency. But refugee groups say the rules are discriminatory and follow an anti-NGO pattern.

EU raises Cyprus NGO bombing with authorities during visit

The European Commission says it discussed with Cypriot authorities the 5 January bombing of an NGO fighting racism in Nicosia. "The bomb attack ... and the authorities' reluctance to even acknowledge it, are a wake-up call for Europe," said Kisa.

EU mulls visa restrictions over migrant returns

The European Commission drafted a confidential report outlining the cooperation of migrant returns in 39 countries. It is now ready to start imposing visa restrictions for those that don't take back their nationals.

Opinion

Ukraine refugees want to return home — but how?

Fewer than one-in-ten Ukrainian refugees intend to settle permanently outside Ukraine, according to new research by the associate director of research and the director of gender and economic inclusion at the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.

Latest News

  1. EU must overhaul Africa trade offer to parry China, warns MEP
  2. EU watchdog faults European Commission over Libya
  3. Hungary's Ukrainian refugees in two minds as relations sour
  4. The six-hour U-turn that saw the EU vote for austerity
  5. Defence, von der Leyen, women's rights, in focus This WEEK
  6. The farming lobby vs Europe's wolves
  7. EU socialists fight battle on two fronts in election campaign
  8. EU docks €32m in funding to UN Gaza agency pending audit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us