Queueing for water, Lesbos Reception and Identification Center, 7 October 2020 | Photo: InfoMigrants/M. MacGregor
Queueing for water, Lesbos Reception and Identification Center, 7 October 2020 | Photo: InfoMigrants/M. MacGregor

Oxfam and the Greek Council for Refugees published a press statement on October 20 in which they declared that conditions in the migrant camp on Lesbos, set up after fire destroyed the original Moria camp, “are abysmal” and worse than at the previous camp.

"The new temporary camp on the Greek island of Lesbos is even worse than the original Moria camp, with inadequate shelter, hardly any running water, limited healthcare services, and no access to legal aid," read a joint press statement from the non-governmental organization (NGO) Oxfam international and the Greek Council for Refugees.

The conditions the two organizations have reported in the new camp have solidified their conviction that all asylum seekers in Lesbos should be "immediately relocated to adequate accommodation on the Greek mainland and in other EU countries."

'Not fit for winter'

At the time of the fire, the old Moria camp was housing around 12,000 people, the new camp has "almost 8,000 people" in it, "most of them families with children." The inhabitants of the new camp have been given tents which are deemed "not fit for winter," and some parts of the camp are just "20 meters from the sea."

The new camp has been put up on the site of a former shooting range on the Greek island of Lesbos.

Oxfam visited the camp at the end of September in order to conduct a "rapid protection assessement," states the press release. Once there, they found "numerous risks" including "limited access to food and healthcare, insufficient measures against COVID-19, as well as no drainage and sewerage system on site."

Vulnerable to the weather

Many of the tents lack solid foundations, reported the international charity. That means they afford little protection against weather extremes like strong sea winds and flooding.

A picture sent by one of the camp's inhabitants to InfoMigrants after what he said was 10 minutes of rain in the middle of October | Photo: Private
A picture sent by one of the camp's inhabitants to InfoMigrants after what he said was 10 minutes of rain in the middle of October | Photo: Private

In fact, since the InfoMigrants team visitied at the beginning of October, it has received various photos from inhabitants of the camp whom they met during the reporting trip which testify to walkways and tents flooding or becoming sodden after just 10 minutes of rain according to the migrants who sent the photos.

Residents told Oxfam that the quantity of the food provided is "not enough" as it is only handed out once or twice a day. It is also of “bad quality,” according to them.

Hygiene facilities are difficult at the new camp, there is a lack of running water and so Oxfam says many of the camp residents have been washing in the sea. This poses the risk of drowning, particularly for children, notes Oxfam, as well as the risk of being infected by contamination from wastewater from the camp, which is also draining into the sea.

Women: 'Increased risks of sexual and gender-based violence'

Women face particular problems, noted Oxfam because there is a "lack of toilets and showers, as well as insufficient lighting in the new camp;" this means they could be exposed to "increased risks of sexual and gender-based violence."

Women protesting about conditions in the new camp | Photo: Violeta Dimitrakopoulou/Oxfam
Women protesting about conditions in the new camp | Photo: Violeta Dimitrakopoulou/Oxfam

Oxfam’s EU migration expert, Raphael Shilhav said in the press statement: "When Moria burnt down, we heard strong statements from EU decision-makers saying 'No more Morias.' But the new camp is rightly dubbed 'Moria 2.0.'"

Shilhav criticizes both the EU and the Greek responses following the fire, calling them "pitiful." He says instead of looking at relocation, the authorities have "opted for another dismal camp at the external borders, trapping people in a spiral of destitution and misery."

'In limbo and despair'

Shilhav says that by leaving people at the edges of Europe they remain "in limbo and despair, out of sight of the European public and politicians."

The Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) echoed Oxfam’s concerns. Natalia-Rafaella Kafkoutsou, a refugee law expert at the GCR said the refugee body was also worried about the living conditions in the new camp.

Kafkoutsou welcomed the Greek government’s declaration to relocate all residents in the camp by Easter but said that plan "failed to address the squalid conditions in the camp, which will deteriorate in winter."

Oxfam says many people who lived in the first Moria camp are now scattered around the island of Lesbos, sleeping rough in carparks, and by the side of the road | Photo: Violeta Dimitrakopoulou/Oxfam
Oxfam says many people who lived in the first Moria camp are now scattered around the island of Lesbos, sleeping rough in carparks, and by the side of the road | Photo: Violeta Dimitrakopoulou/Oxfam

Doubts over new EU migration pact

Kafkoutsou said it was important that the Greek government offered coherent integration strategies and didn’t just "transfer a policy-made problem from the island to the mainland." This mean that the much-talked about European solidarity mechanism needed to step up and work on an "effective relocation across member states for those seeking protection in Europe."

Oxfam and GCR both expressed doubts about the ideas expressed in the new EU migration pact which was outlined towards the end of September. Kafkoutsou pointed out that "the practices and policies that led to the failure of the EU ‘hotspot’ approach, both in Lesbos and the other Aegean islands, should not be replicated and consolidated in the EU’s future asylum system, which seems to be the case with the current proposals for a new EU migration pact."

 

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