Moria camp for migrants in Lesvos prior to the meeting with Pope Francis in December 2021 | Photo: EPA/VATICAN MEDIA
Moria camp for migrants in Lesvos prior to the meeting with Pope Francis in December 2021 | Photo: EPA/VATICAN MEDIA

Once described by media observers as "hell on earth", Moria, on the Greek island of Lesbos looks significantly different to how it did a few years ago. According to the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi, the transformation is a result of the efforts of the Greek government.

Mitsotakis and Mitarachi paid a visit to Moria on Friday (May 12) to present the government's work at the site of the former asylum seeker reception center and how they have supported the local communities affected by the refugee crisis.

"The hell of Moria -- as it became known abroad -- no longer exists; it belongs in the past," said Mitsotakis. He added: "And that's why I'm extremely proud, because I kept the commitment I made to the people here, especially the smaller, local communities, that I would solve this issue and overcome all the obstacles that might stand in our way."

The prime minister stressed that his country followed a "strict but fair policy on immigration."

"We have protected our country's borders, both on land and at sea, and we have reduced the arrivals of illegal immigrants to the islands of the Eastern Aegean by more than 90%. We proved that the sea has borders and these borders can and must be guarded by the Greek State," he said.

Also read: Greek migration minister: 'We are protecting our borders in line with international law'

'Hell on earth' will be a cultural and educational center

The site of the camp is now being transformed into a cultural center for educational purposes. Originally intended to hold 3,000 people, as many as 20,000 people at one point lived at the Moria refugee camp -- most of them with no electricity, scant water and, for many, no shelter at all in what was a sprawling mess of squalor.

The camp gained notoriety in the world media over inhumane living conditions.

Fires destroyed the camp in September 2020, and although it left nearly 13,000 people without shelter at the time, it was the catalyst for the speeding up of moving people to the mainland and reducing the number of people living in temporary, "tent cities".

For his part, Mitarachi said he was welcoming the prime minister "to a better Lesbos", as the island currently hosts less than 2,500 asylum seekers.

Also read: Mavrovouni camp, Lesbos: No place to welcome a newborn

'Reduce the effects of the migrant crisis on local communities'

He added: "We made a commitment to the Greek people to substantially reduce the flows of illegal migrants coming into the country and drastically the effects of the crisis on local communities. And we did it with a plan and determination."

At the same time, Mitarachi spoke about the support to local communities with more than €110 million for projects and actions through the Solidarity Fund, but also from extraordinary grants and municipal fees.

"We supported 45 municipalities and their organizations nationwide, with amounts of more than 110 million euros for projects/actions," he concluded.

Also read: Lesbos after Moria fire: 'People are still living in tents by the sea'


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