Amnesty International's Secretary General, Kumi Naidoo, holding in his arms the child of a migrant while talking with women migrants and refugees during his visit at the 'Melissa' network for migrant women in Athens.PHOTO/ARCHIVE/EPA/SIMELA PANTZARTZI
Amnesty International's Secretary General, Kumi Naidoo, holding in his arms the child of a migrant while talking with women migrants and refugees during his visit at the 'Melissa' network for migrant women in Athens.PHOTO/ARCHIVE/EPA/SIMELA PANTZARTZI

Amnesty International visited the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, and in a letter to Greece's Prime minister defines it "a scar on the conscience of Europe."

The secretary-general of Amnesty International, Kumi Naidoo, has sent an open letter to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras after visiting the island of Lesbos and the Moria refugee camp. He spoke of a "devastating situation" as concerns the living conditions of migrants there. 


Naidoo, who visited Lesbos in early October, said Moria was "a scar on the conscience of Europe." He has called on the prime minister to take all necessary measures to improve living conditions at migrant reception centers on the Greek islands and ensure that the basic human rights of refugees and migrants are guaranteed. 

'Shocking' reality in Moria 

"Moria is not the first refugee camp I have visited over the years but what I witnessed was quite simply shocking," he said in the letter. Naidoo stressed that the facilities held three times as many people as their official capacity when he was there and that the containment policy for asylum seekers on the islands to implement the EU-Turkey agreement had resulted in "thousands of people remain trapped there for months on end in squalid conditions. Their lives are in limbo, crushed by the prospect of being returned to a country that is not safe for them." 

"I witnessed firsthand how people, even pregnant women and babies, have to sleep in cold, dirty and overcrowded tents. Women and girls, unaccompanied minors and members of the LGBTI community are particularly exposed to danger. Showers and toilets are scarce and not in separate areas, many facilities don't lock, lighting is poor and even taking a shower or getting water can be stressful and risky. People have to queue for hours to get food or see a doctor and they are not always guaranteed a meal. Children often have no access to education and teenagers feel isolated and in despair due to the lack of prospects. What alarmed me most, is the fear that women have expressed, their fear of sexual harassment and violence, their fear for their safety and that of their children," he wrote. 

Conditions to worsen with winter 

"The hardship and horror experienced on a daily basis by people who are already traumatized having fled war, persecution and violence and faced the perilous journey to Greece, is about to get worse as the winter looms. It terrifies me to think that the people I met will be forced to spend months in conditions that will become even more dire when rain, cold and possible snow arrive," he said. 

"This coincides with the third winter of the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal, which in Amnesty International's view is the main driver behind the inhumane conditions refugees and migrants face today in Moria and on some other islands in Greece. There is no doubt in my mind, that the situation I witnessed is not the sole responsibility of Greece. Far from it, Amnesty International has documented how the overstretched systems of frontline countries creak under the strain. 

"Yet EU countries are failing to deliver a coherent and workable asylum reform that would enable sharing responsibility for asylum seekers more equitably. Delays in providing solutions mean people fleeing desperate situations are languishing in limbo, many waiting for their asylum application to be processed in one European country while their family resides in another. Current EU asylum policy puts disproportionate pressure on some EU countries and tears families apart," he said.

Amnesty International, thus, is calling on the Greek authorities to restore a sense of human dignity to those trapped in Moria and other camps on Greek islands, as well as to end the cruel containment policy inflicted on asylum seekers arriving on Greek islands from Turkey.
 

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