Sunday, September 19

Lesbos, a year after the Moira fire: tents and unsanitary conditions

During September 8 and 9, 2020, several fires devastated the Moria migrant camp, where about 13,000 people were living together in deplorable conditions. One year after promises by the European Union and the Greek authorities of a “new beginning” on migration, thousands of people are still living in tents facing the sea in Kara Tepe, while the promised camp in the center of the island still not reached.

Doctors without borders (MSF) denounces that European and Greek leaders continue to violate the rights of asylum seekers and migrants seeking safety in Europe, while their plan to build prison-like camps on the five islands of the North Aegean continues to advance.

“In Greece, the future looks more dystopian than ever, those who manage to cross the sea continue to live in miserable fields on the Greek islands. It is a tragic irony that as the world watches the latest events in Afghanistan, the EU and Greece are inaugurating a new prison-like center to catch refugees on the island of Samos. This is the best demonstration of the cruelty of EU migration policies, “says Konstantinos Psykakos, MSF General Coordinator in Greece.

According to MSF, their patients continue to report the deterioration of their health, both physical and mental, caused by the arbitrary and accelerated asylum processes, the fear of deportation and the precarious conditions under which they live.

“There is no difference between the old Moria camp and the Kara Tepe camp. The procedures are the same. It is the same system. As a sick person, I feel like I’m going from bad to worse day by day. The European Parliament, the European Union, they know what is going on in this shameful field, “says Ali, a torture survivor in Syria who has been in Lesbos for a year and six months, according to testimony released by MSF.

Children seen at MSF clinics in Lesbos often exhibit regressive behaviors, such as aggression, withdrawal and urinary incontinence, or delays in cognitive, emotional and social development, according to the organization.

About half of MSF’s patients, both pediatric and adult, suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depressive disorder.

“Our mental health is not good. Right now, I don’t know if we can be recognized as asylum seekers or if we will be rejected again,” says Mariam, mother of a two-year-old girl from Afghanistan who has been in Lesbos for two years. . “Until now, my daughter has never been to a park. We have trouble getting permission to leave the field. My little girl tends to have aggressive behaviors because of what she has witnessed here. She does not like to play, laugh, talk or play with dolls.” .

No new camp

The new camp that the Greek authorities promised, and which was to open before winter, has not even begun to be built, according to AFP. Meanwhile, the authorities have closed two projects that provided accommodation for vulnerable migrants on the island.

Still in the makeshift camp, the thousands of refugees are facing a second winter in what are said to be improved conditions, but in a place that has previously been flooded and where refugees can wait two years or more for processing. asylum applications.

The fire was started, according to authorities, in protest of sanitary restrictions to deal with the pandemic. The six young Afghans jailed for between five and 10 years earlier this year for setting the fire insist they were falsely accused.

“No one should have to spend the winter in tents,” said Michelle Girard, envoy for the UN refugee agency in Greece, to AFP. “Stores after a fire, yes, but a year later?”

Girard says that, although the place has improved since the fire, the patches are not enough and that “it is not a lasting solution”. Greek officials, on the other hand, say hundreds of people have been flown to the mainland to ease overcrowding.

Greece has been accused of hotly returning refugees and migrants in the Aegean who are trying to keep reaching their islands from Turkey. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose New Democracy party took power in the snap elections on July 7, 2019 and ousted the Radical Left SYRIZA, has taken a tougher line in treating refugees and migrants.

Greek officials say the country “will never again be the gateway to Europe”, but human rights groups and activists say the government is being too harsh and violating EU laws on the treatment of applicants. asylum.

The EU promised to allocate 276 million euros for Greece to build reception facilities on the five Aegean islands – Lesbos, Leros, Kos, Samos and Chios – but the NGOs complain that the European Commission, in charge of the deployment, has not done enough.

In addition, following the fire, the Greek authorities have not provided the residents of the makeshift camp with adequate and safe access to water, sanitation, supplies for the management of menstrual hygiene and health care, according to a complaint. Human Rights Watch’s annual report on Greece.

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