Greece has announced that 7,200 migrants stuck in temporary accommodation since the blaze at the Moria camp in September will be moved to permanent accommodation by September 2021. The European Commission will support the Greek government with the building project.
Some 12,300 people in total were affected by the fire that effectively gutted the Moria migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos in September. While many of the refugees and asylum seekers were transferred to the Greek mainland and some to other EU countries like Germany, thousands remained on Lesbos and were moved to the improvised Kara Tepe facility nearby, which mostly is constituted of a tent camp.
Aid groups have long been criticizing the conditions at Kara Tepe, especially in view of lacking sufficient infrastructure for the cold winter months.
According to the EU, the new permanent reception center, which is supposed to replace Moria one year after the fire, will have improved facilities both in comparison to Kara Tepe as well as the now-destroyed Moria camp, which was infamous for its squalid conditions.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the new center "will bring decent conditions to migrants and refugees who arrive, as well as supporting the communities on the Greek Islands."
It will reportedly be centered around a living area with containers, will house health care facilities and recreational spaces, and there will also be a set of prefabricated houses for educational use.
European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said the agreement between Greece and the EU was going to enable "proper conditions" for migrants and refugees reaching the Greek islands.
€250,000 of building contracts
The EU Commission called the building of the new camp "an important step" in seeking a lasting solution after the blaze that destroyed Moria.
It said it would spend a total of €130 million on building the new facility on Lesbos as well as another migrant center on the Greek island of Chios. The Commission had already agreed earlier to spend another €121 million on establishing facilities on the islands of Samos, Kos and Leros.
All the centers are expected to finish construction by September 2021.
Criticism before the laying of the first brick
The managing director of the German migrant rights' organization Pro Asyl, Günter Burkhardt, lashed out at the plans, saying that the camps were not aimed at enabling fair asylum procedures, but rather served the purpose of deporting people as quickly as possible: "The EU will now become an accomplice of the inhuman Greek policy … towards refugees", he said.
"This way, the EU finances the deprivation of rights of people seeking protection. In a tweet, Pro Asyl criticized the present status quo on Lesbos already, referring to the conditions at the Kara Tepe camp as "Moria2" and voicing concern about the lack of measures being taken to ensure the safety and health of the migrants there during winter.
Oxfam has also criticized that the new center will not be big enough to ensure dignified conditions for everyone, as it will only have a projected capacity of 5,000 people: "This will not be sufficient without regular relocations to the mainland and to other EU countries. This has not worked in the past," Oxfam spokesman Florian Oel told the dpa news agency.
Oel added that migrants should preferably be transferred to the Greek mainland or the other EU states, which he says is "where the asylum procedure should happen -- in a transparent, efficient and fair manner."
EU Commission President von der Leyen meanwhile said that the new migrant facility would do exactly that: "It is also about fast and fair procedures, so the centers are what they should be -- only a temporary stop before either return or integration," she said.
With dpa, AFP