The Kara Tepe camp on Lesbos, September 7 2021 | Photo: InfoMigrants
The Kara Tepe camp on Lesbos, September 7 2021 | Photo: InfoMigrants

Christian* arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos from Turkey in September 2019. This young Congolese man lived for more than a year in the overcrowded Moria camp and then on the street after a fire destroyed it. He is currently living in the new Kara Tepe camp, which was supposed to be a temporary solution. But he tells InfoMigrants how this situation does not seem to be changing.

When a fire destroyed the Moria camp on the night of September 8, 2020, Christian, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, felt hopeful. What if this fire would enable him to finally leave the island where he had been stranded for more than a year?

But, another year later, Christian is still trapped on Lesbos and is still trying to complete his administrative procedures. The young man tries to stay hopeful but admits that it will be "very difficult" to spend another winter in the camp of Kara Tepe. He told his story to InfoMigrants.

'I was only able to start my application a year after I arrived'

"My friends and I arrived in Lesbos in September 2019. I had tried four times to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey before I succeeded.

When we arrived in Lesbos, we were all detained and sent to the Moria camp. It was very dirty and difficult because it was a camp for 5,000 people but there were 22,000 of us living in it at that time. There were women with children sleeping in the bushes, and there were snakes. During the day, we did nothing but sleep.

I was only able to start my asylum application in the fall of 2020, after already being in Moria for a year. The original date for my asylum interview was May 5, 2021.

Eventually, after the fire destroyed Moria and we were sent to the new temporary camp in Kara Tepe in September 2020, everyone had their interview. During my interview, I told my whole story. I had photos that showed that I had been tortured in my country and that friends of mine had been killed.

I received the decision at the end of June 2021, almost eight months later. The Greek authorities had rejected my asylum application. I was told that I was a liar and that my situation did not fit the criteria for asylum.

Read more: 'It's mental torture': daily life in the women's section of the Kara Tepe camp in Greece

'After the fire, we were full of hope'

When we arrived in Kara Tepe, my friends and I were mostly thinking about leaving the country. The Minister of Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi had promised us that we would all leave the camp after a few months.

[A new camp with "decent" living conditions is to be built on the island of Lesbos. It was scheduled to open at the end of summer 2021, Mitarachi had previously announced, but construction work on the site has not even started.]

And other European countries had said that they would take people from Moria.

[Following the fire, several European countries, including France and Germany, had said they were ready to receive only the 400 unaccompanied minors who were in Moria, as well as vulnerable people.]

We agreed to stay in the temporary camp, because France and Germany had promised that we would be able to then go there and that they would change the Dublin regulation.

[Following the fire, the European Union began a modification of the European legislation on asylum. A new "European pact on migration and asylum" was presented at the end of September 2020, but the Dublin Treaty is still in force.]

After the fire, we were full of hope, we thought we would be transferred to another country. Nobody wants to stay here. The Greek authorities promised us that things would change, but nothing has changed.

Read more: A year after the Moria fire, migrants lose hope of better conditions

Winter 2019 in Moria, winter 2020 in Kara Tepe

We spent last winter in tents, we suffered a lot from the cold. We had only one jacket each and no heating. I spent the winter of 2019 in Moria and the winter of 2020 in Kara Tepe. It will be really difficult to live another winter. If God does not look after me, I might get sick.

I still haven't finished all procedures for my asylum application. After I was rejected, I appealed in July. A lawyer was appointed for me but we have never met, we have only spoken by video. He had my file and he was trying to trap me on details of my trip without looking at the reasons why I was threatened in my country. I have yet to receive a response to my appeal.

In comparison, a dinghy (inflatable boat) arrived not long ago. The people on board have been in quarantine for two weeks. They had their asylum interviews straight away after that but they were all rejected. Most of them were Congolese."

* His first name has been changed.


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