Wednesday

28th Jul 2021

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.

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"Most of the time we receive food where the rice is not even cooked, it is raw and the meats are outdated," he said.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

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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".

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