Sunday

13th Jun 2021

Greece closes humane camp for refugees, sends them to Moria

  • Conditions at 'Moria 2.0', a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, are said to be dire (Photo: Choose Love)

The last of the two model refugee camps on the Greek island of Lesbos is closing, with people there being sent to dire conditions in Moria.

Up until last month, Kara Tepe 1 camp was home to around 1,000 people, including families and others with vulnerabilities.

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The camp had been praised as humane, run, in part, by NGOs, and where asylum seekers and refugees were able to tend to small gardens.

But now all have been forced to leave, with over 500 bused to the mud-ridden temporary facility of Moria, overseen by the Greek state.

"Moria is not set up to accommodate them," said Raphael Shilhav, a policy expert at Oxfam International on Monday (3 May). It has no access for people with disabilities, he said.

The EU's designated hotspot Moria, which had turned into a sprawling ghetto, burned down seven months ago.

Its replacement is a temporary facility known as Mavrovouni, but also dubbed 'Moria 2.0.'

Basics like hot water and toilets remain an issue for the some 7,000 people in Moria 2.0.

"The problem is that the majority of people in Kara Tepe were vulnerable, so they needed specific reception conditions," said Shilhav.

Similar comments were made by Doctors without Borders (MSF).

It said some 400 people in Kara Tepe are vulnerable, including men, women and children.

"It is devastating to see the health of our patients get worse because they are forced to return to unsafe accommodation," said an MSF doctor, quoted by Italian news agency, Ansa.

The UN Refugee Agency had demanded the Greek government refrain from transferring the people from Kara Tepe until a new permanent camp is completed later this year.

"It is a decision of the government to return the municipal site back to the local authorities," a UNHCR spokesperson told EUobserver, noting some Kara Tepe residents were refugees.

He said the Greek authorities are expected to provide the recognised refugees with documents, possibly relocating them to other parts of Greece.

Meanwhile, the UN agency has since moved some 30 container units from Kara Tepe to Moria 2.0, he said.

"Our goal is to move all the containers over," he said.

Greece had also late last year shut down a community-run refugee shelter known as Pikpa, described by one former resident as a sanctuary.

Lead contamination

Moria 2.0 is perched on a former shooting range at the edge of the island and exposed to harsh weather conditions.

Parts of the zone are contaminated with high levels of lead. Out of the 12 soil samples taken by the Greek authorities, one registered 2,233 milligrams of lead per kilogram of soil. For residential areas in Greece, the threshold is 500 milligrams per kilogram.

In January, the European Commission said the Greeks had informed them that they would prevent further lead exposure in the area.

"They will also take new sampling after they have put in place these safety measures," Beate Gminder, a senior EU commission official, told MEPs end of January.

But last week, around 50 MEPs in a letter to the commission, said not enough is being done.

They noted that only three of the 12 samples were taken in an area known to be highly contaminated.

They have since asked the European Commission to ensure that the Greek authorities move people out of the lead-contaminated zones.

"It is well known that pregnant women and children are those at the most of risk when living on and playing with soil and dust contaminated by lead," they said.

Greek island community-run refugee shelters under threat

Founded in 2012 by local Greeks, Pikpa is a community refugee shelter on the Greek island of Lesbos. Now Greek authorities are threatening to shut down the facility, which won a UN humanitarian prize award.

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".

Analysis

Between the lines, Europe's new Moria unfolds

A new five-day screening of migrants at Europe's external borders is meant to expedite people into either 'asylum' or 'return' tracks. The time-limit is wishful thinking and one that could leave people stranded in make-shift camps or even ghettos.

Reality bites EU's 'No More Morias' pledge

The EU's hotspot of Moria, a sprawling ghetto-like camp for migrants and refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos, burned down last September. EU leaders declared such scenes would never be replicated. But its replacement faces similar problems.

EU sends mixed message on Turkey as 'safe' haven

Greece has declared Turkey a safe country for asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Syria and Somalia. But the European Commission appears to have shed doubt on the claim, saying individual cases still need to be assessed.

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