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What is happening in the Aegean now? (30/9/20)

Three weeks on from the fire which destroyed much of the Moria RIC on Lesvos we feel it is time for an update to keep you all in touch with significant developments:

Key points

1. New camp updates: Moria 2.0

  • Wholesale movements of people to the new camp as NGOs ‘discouraged’ from distributing food outside the camp and people told their asylum will only be processed in the new camp. 9,200 reported settled by 22/9/20.

  • Those already holding refugee status appear appear not to have been allowed to enter the new camp

  • Conditions in camps: The site is exposed, and vulnerable to bad weather. There are no showers, leaving people to wash in the sea or with bottled water. Food is still distributed just once daily, and the majority of people in contact with Legal Centre Lesvos have reported that they are hungry. The nights are growing colder, and people are sleeping on the cold ground without mattresses, warm clothes, or adequate blankets. First winter storms are threatening the camp.

  • No vulnerability assessments are taking place in new camp

  • 243 Covid19 cases reported by 22/9/20

  • Fears of a closed camp appear unfounded, at least at present, possibly due to widespread protests against this policy across Europe. Residents are allowed out for shopping and ‘serious reasons’ although exits have been reported as an issue on Sundays

  • The new camp is built on a former firing range. Army Land Mine Clearance squad has been seen working in camp & bullet cases found on site. Fears of lead contamination in soil - particularly dangerous for small children.

  • Transfers: 724 men, women & children moved to mainland on 28/9, rumoured to be those who already have Greek residence permits to be moved into hotels on mainland, while another 300 people were transferred from Chios, Kos & Leros. Further 700 planned for 30/9. A total of 2,500 are planned to leave by the end of next week.

  • Recognized refugees no longer entitled to remain at island camps and moved to the mainland will get 2 months accommodation funded by EU. Goal is to curb homelessness in urban areas like Victoria Sq. in Athens.

2. Threatened closure of Pikpa and original Kara Tepe Camp

  • Government plans to shut down Pikpa camp by October 15th & move residents to the new camp. The municipality-run camp in Kara Tepe will also close.

  • These camps house the most vulnerable of Lesvos refugees and are seen as a model for dignified treatment of asylum seekers in stark contrast to Moria & the new Kara Tepe camp

  • ‘Save Pikpa’ campaign launched

  • UNHCR says Pikpa, Kara Tepe & other dignified shelters should stay open

3. Unaccompanied minors

  • All UAMs from all islands have apparently been transferred to mainland for accommodation in hotels & ‘holiday camps’

  • ‘Are you Syrious’ reports in total 750 minors have been transferred to mainland

  • Today first EU relocations. 139 asylum seekers departed today for Germany including 86 children with health problems & their families, and 53 UAMs.

4. Asylum Procedures: Lesvos

  • No announcement from the Asylum Service about when the offices in Lesvos will be re-established, and how interviews and other procedures will be conducted.

5. Other island updates

  • Further fires have been reported in Samos camp which have been rapidly brought under control and arson suspects have been detained by police

  • Covid19 lockdowns in RICs in Leros, Samos and Fylakio. Measures for these structures will remain in effect until October 9th. Lockdown no longer effective in Vial, Chios.

  • At least 60 Covid cases in Samos with positive cases being isolated in containers & sleeping on the floor

Greek Government Response

1. NGO worker arrests in new camp

  • 2 NGO workers were arrested in the camp on Monday & questioned by 10 policemen for a total of 4.5 hours before being released

2. Pushbacks

  • Arrivals on Chios documented by NGOs & Greek press in order to avoid possible immediate illegal returns to Turkey by Greek coastguard

  • Greek criminal case against NGOs accused of trafficking. 33 members of 4 NGOs operating in Lesvos & 2 foreigners are facing criminal charges. Police say charges include joining a criminal organisation, espionage and violating state secrets. No arrests to date

  • Both Mare Liberum e.V. and German journalists have reported on the German navy ship “standing by” and witnessing illegal pushbacks by the Greek coastguard.

European response:

  1. The much anticipated European Commission new Migration Pact appears to reaffirm the EU’s commitment to containment, deterrence and return. See EMA new pact social media pack for more details and ways to act.

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