A 15-year-old Afghan minor has been killed at the Moria migrant camp on the island of Lesbos during a violent brawl. The UN refugee agency UNHCR has in response called on the Greek government to urgently transfer migrant youths away to safe areas.
UNHCR representative in Greece Philippe Leclerc said that he was shocked to learn about the 15-year-old Afghan boy's death at the infamous Moria camp: "The Greek government must take urgent measures to ensure that these children are transferred to a safe place," Leclerc demanded in a statement.
The minor from Afghanistan had been fatally stabbed by a compatriot on Saturday, and two other minors were injured during the altercation. One of the two injured reportedly required life-saving surgery. An Afghan teenager meanwhile was arrested by Greek police as the main suspect.
Extensive delays cause frustration
The Moria camp has been making headlines since the onset of the so-called refugee crisis in 2015, with thousands of migrants and refugees often spending months under cramped conditions at the overcrowded island camp before their applications are processed. Reports of violence have repeatedly surfaced from Moria and other migrant camps on the Greek islands in the past few years.
Rights groups warn that these long waits and the accompanying uncertainty are harmful to migrants, many of whom already arrive there in a fragile mental state after perilous journeys across the Aegean Sea. According to the UN, Moria hosts more than 8,500 refugees and migrants it total — four times the camp's actual capacity.
Greek officials blame the delays (and the resulting overcrowding) on the sheer number of applications and appeals filed by economic migrants, who they say create backlogs despite having no credible claims to a refugee status and no prospect of ultimately being granted protection. Nearly 22,000 migrants have arrived in Greece in 2019 so far, according to the UN.
Greece's new conservative government plans to speed up its asylum process with the aim of sending rejected applicants back to Turkey.
'Not the place for children'
The UN agency said that Moria hosts nearly 70 unaccompanied children in addition to more than 500 other boys and girls who are housed at various parts of the overcrowded facility without their guardian present. Nearly 1,000 unaccompanied and separated children in total are now staying on the Greek Aegean islands — the highest number in three years.
"Moria is not the place for children who are alone and have faced profound trauma from events at home and the hardship of their flight. They need special care in designated shelters," Leclerc said.
UNHCR officials also fear that these underage refugees and migrants could easily be exposed to exploitation and abuse.