Greece bans access to food and water for 571 people on the move
On Thursday 18/05/2023, the Greek Ministry of Migration decided to restrict access to food for people living in the "Mavrovouni" camp. Since Friday, 19/05/2023, only people with an ongoing asylum procedure have been granted access to food and water. 571 people are now being prevented from having the right to access food and water.
Currently, more than 2,500 people are living in the Closed Control Access Centre (CCAC) Mavrovouni on Lesvos. Not all of them have currently an ongoing asylum procedure. Even the people who receive a negative or positive decision usually have no choice than to continue living in the camp for some time. After a rejection, people have the right to appeal - a process that can take several weeks. During this period, they have to stay in the camp and continue to depend on the care there. Even people with positive decisions usually have to stay longer in the camp. Due to long waiting times in the Greek migration system, it can take months before they get their papers. Both groups cannot simply leave the camp, they would end up homeless without income or food. Now, with the enforcement of this law, people will be forced to do exactly that.
The people on the move living in the camp usually do not have sufficient financial resources to buy food by themself. They are therefore dependent on regular food distributions and relief supplies. Due to the bad quality of the food distributed in the camp, the residents have so far been additionally supplied by daily deliveries from the NGO "Zaporeak Proiektua". The NGO have now been informed that they will also be denied access to the camp from Monday on. People with illnesses who depend on a special diet plan suffer immensely from this new regulation.
In this way, not only the Greek government itself refuses to take responsibility for a basic provision for people on the move - it is also preventing aid from being provided by NGOs. This means that the clear aim of the measures is to deliberately let people starve.
"The situation is getting from bad to worse. I don't know what will happen to us. People are very upset about this situation and the silence of the people does not bode well." - Affected person in the camp
Election campaign at the expense of people on the move?
The national parliamentary elections in Greece will take place on 21/05/2023. The previous week, the incumbent Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited the island of Lesvos and the CCAC Mavrovouni. The fact that inhumane restrictions like this are being pushed through shortly after the conservative prime minister's visit raises the question for us whether Mitsotakis wants to use this political decision for his election campaign. Known for his conservative and anti-migration policies, it seems reasonable to assume that his party also wants to position itself again shortly before the elections. Once again, votes on the right-wing fringe are to be won - at the expense of basic services for refugees. Access to food is clearly identified as a fundamental human right by Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
As civil society organisations, we are speechless by this targeted violation of human rights by an EU member state. Of course, we remain committed to these fundamental rights of all people to have access to food and water. We, Europe Cares e.V., will continue to distribute food at the Paréa Community Center on Lesvos, regardless of the status or origin of our visitors. However, there is no way that this support will be able to provide, even in the medium term, for the groups of people who are now being affected by the state restrictions to go hungry.
Every person - and especially vulnerable people on the move - must have safe access to food and water.
People on the move should never become a victim of political games.
Humanitarian organisations must not become victims of criminalisation if they continue to act according to international law.
The authorities in Greece must act according to international law and uphold human rights, always!
Europe Cares e.V. & Paréa Lesvos, LeaveNoOneBehind, Europe Must Act / Germany Must Act
Notes for Editors
Europe Must Act (EMA) is a growing grassroots movement, bringing together volunteers and NGOs to campaign for the humane, dignified and legal reception of refugees in Europe. EMA was established in March 2020 by a group of volunteers on the Greek Aegean islands of Chios and Samos in response to the ever-worsening situation of the hotspot camps. For more information about EMA, please visit https://www.europemustact.org/about-us.
Further comments are available.
Elsa Beau, Communications Co-Coordinator and Raising Voices Coordinator, Europe Must Act
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Christian Schmidt, Network Coordinator, Europe Must Act
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