On Tuesday 8th September, fires broke out across Moria refugee camp on Lesvos, the largest migrant camp in Europe. The flames have ravaged huge swathes of the camp, including the Covid-19 isolation area and the clinic. Moria refugee camp has an official capacity of 2,757 but was home to 12,589 people. The fire has left residents of the already painfully overcrowded camp without a home, and in many cases without any of their belongings.
Police have cordoned off roads and access routes to the camp to prevent residents from entering nearby towns. Fascists have threatened further action. The government has declared a four-month state of emergency. Current information suggests the Greek government is working on a ‘solution’ which involves moving everyone to another closed, militarised camp - which will only prolong the problem.
It is not the first time a tragic fire happened in the Aegean island camps. Europe Must Act warned of this tragedy happening six months ago. Now, it is more urgent than ever. In light of the fire in Moria, EMA has three key demands calling for immediate action to evacuate asylum seekers from the Aegean island camps. They must be recognised in order to uphold the rights and dignity of the 27,000 people living in dangerous and traumatising conditions.
Following the State of Emergency declared on Lesvos, the EU must organise fair relocation of asylum seekers from Moria and other Aegean island camps to EU countries (including Norway, UK, Switzerland) as an emergency measure. The right to seek asylum in safety and dignity must be upheld. Basic human rights to shelter, food and sanitation are no longer available. This relocation should be enabled as a matter of urgency.
Pending relocation the EU must mobilise to provide immediate technical and financial emergency assistance to the people of Lesvos (both asylum seekers and Greek inhabitants)
The fire in Moria is a direct consequence of deeply flawed European migration policy. Europe needs a migration and asylum policy that puts the rights of refugees front and centre. The New Pact for Migration, that will be presented by the European Commission at the end of September, must break with the current fear-based deterrence and embrace a rights-based policy that provides safe and legal pathways to Europe.
‘In the 9 short months of 2020, 10 other fires have ripped apart canvas, tent and field. Fires have broken families and claimed lives. They have lit the skies and faces of fleeing souls, wreaking havoc and invoking terror,’ states Action for Education, an organisation on the ground.
‘My tent was burned, with all of my documents and all of my clothes. I cannot do anything now. All of the refugees, newborns and the sick, are coming and sleeping in the street. We cannot do anything. We do not have anything,’ states a resident volunteer living in Moria. For safety reasons they wish to remain anonymous.
It is clear a solution must be found. As European migration policy was responsible for creating these inhumane, dangerous refugee camps, advocacy group Europe Must Act believes it is down to the European Union to create the solution. Instead of looking away and using Greece as a ‘shield’, it is time for the European Union to act. EMA believes all EU nations (as well as the UK) must pledge to resettle asylum-seekers in order to fulfil their human right to make an asylum claim in safety.
More quotes, images, and footage from actors on the ground available on request.
Please contact Tigs Louis-Puttick or Christian Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org or +447443612408 for more information.
by Yousif Alsheweili