A child walks in the section for families in the Identification Center of Moria, Lesvos Island, Greece Credit: EPA/ Orestis Panagiotou
A child walks in the section for families in the Identification Center of Moria, Lesvos Island, Greece Credit: EPA/ Orestis Panagiotou

One of Greece's largest and notoriously overcrowded refugee and migrants camps at Moria on the island of Lesvos could be shut down within a month. The Regional Authority of the Northern Aegean has given Greece's Ministry of Migration policy a 30-day ultimatum to clean up the controversial reception center in a damning report made by health inspectors.

The comprehensive report, compiled by a group of environmental and health inspectors from Lesvos' public health directorate, concludes that the camp is "unsuitable and a dangerous health risk for the public and the environment." Among the damning claims in the report, which was sent to the Migration Policy Ministry, the Minister for Protection of Citizens, the Lesvos district attorney and the head of the island's police department, inspectors stated there is an "uncontrolled wastewater spill at the entrance of the camp, which flows into an adjacent stream and even out onto the road," while it also highlighted broken toilet waste pipes which create a strong stench and which post "a danger to public health." 

According to the findings of the report, the mass overcrowding and squalid living conditions within Moria, in which up to 15 people are squeezed into small houses and up to 150 in each tent, increases the risk of disease transmission.Within the report is a long list of damages and issues which North Aegean Regional Governor Christiana Kalogirou has said the ministry needs to repair and/or restore, otherwise the organisation will forbid the camp's continued operation and take legal action towards closing it down.

Empty Promises

It remains to be seen what the government reaction will be to this development, but already it seems that the promise of Dimitris Vitsas, the Migration Policy Minister, to reduce the number of refugees on the islands to 10,000 by the end of this month is already an empty one.Vitsas had said earlier this summer that the state would speed up relocation efforts and ensure that the number of migrants staying at overcrowded camps on Lesvos, Chios and Samos combined would be cut to 10,000 by September.But the region is currently flooded with close to 20,000 refugees and migrants, with Lesvos alone hosting over 10,000.

Last week, the United Nations Refugee Agency called on Greek authorities to speed up the transfer of eligible asylum-seekers to the mainland, as the situation has reached boiling point.Also last week, it was revealed that doctors and nurses and resigning from their positions at the Vathi camp in the neighbouring island of Samos in droves, citing the poor working conditions at the camp.

Several representatives from the PHILOS (Integrated Emergency Health Intervention for the Refugee Crisis) program have quit in recent weeks as the situation threatens to spiral out of control.One of the leading doctors, Manos Logothetis commented on local radio Harmony FM that "there are no words to describe the conditions we are working in. Many of the medical staff prefer to be unemployed that work here." This development came hot on the heels of a similar call to action from Lesvos mayor Spyros Galinos, who made a fresh plea to Vitsas to make good on his promises about reducing migrant numbers on the North Eastern Aegean islands. 

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