Moria catastrophe – the aftermath

The aftermath of the complete destruction of the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) of Moria by fires is a tragedy: More than 12,000 people remain in critical condition on Lesvos, being left without shelter or access to sanitary facilities.

From Tuesday afternoon, police units have imposed a restriction of refugees within the area between Moria, Panagiouda and Kara Tepe, and are blocking access of people affected by the fire beyond the electricity station in the direction of the town of Mytilene. Organisations and actors providing assistance and services to refugees do not have unhindered access to the zone. Approximately 4,000 persons are trapped outside Mytilene, between the camp of Kara Tepe and the AB supermarket, while thousands remain on the road between Moria and Panagiouda. Since Tuesday evening, these people have been left to their devices without any state support to meet their immediate needs until now. They sleep without shelter on the road, under trucks, in a playgrounds and even in cemeteries, as well as in burnt areas of the RIC of Moria. They have no access to sanitary facilities and items (water, toilets, soap, diapers, disinfectant etc., during the COVID-19 pandemic, while limited food provision was severely delayed as large supermarkets in the restricted zone are closed.

Refugees speaking with Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) reported that, until the Hellenic Army started providing food at designated distribution points on Thursday afternoon, they had not received food from the authorities. Distribution has been announced to take place once a day and comprises of three meals.

The Ministry of Interior has called upon local authorities to identify facilities to immediately shelter people, following the municipality’s opposition to the use of two former army barracks in Kara Tepe and Larsos as temporary reception facilities. Contrary to Ministry of Migration and Asylum announcements relating to the arrival of two naval ships, to be used as temporary shelter, the Minister of Defence stated on Thursday that the vessels had not left and that was not clear whether they would leave for Lesvos.

Finally, the Government announced that no one will leave the island of Lesvos, except for the 400 unaccompanied children transferred to the mainland on Wednesday night. However, the European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, urged for relocation to other countries and noted the need for the entire population of the Moria camp to be evacuated out of Lesvos, given the inability to provide adequate reception conditions for over 12,000 people.

The treatment of people affected by the fire in Moria by the Greek State is underpinned by unprecedented omissions to provide basic humanitarian assistance to victims of a disaster. Although the island was declared to be under a state of emergency, no state measures have been taken up to now to ensure – at least temporary – shelter and access to sanitary facilities for the refugees. The authorities’ primary, and visible, response has been to strengthen and multiply police on Lesvos presence instead of social services.

We call on the Greek Government to take the necessary measures to immediately support refugees affected by the fire and to guarantee protection, accommodation and access to sanitary facilities to all affected persons, until their necessary and rapid transfer to safe reception facilities on the mainland. The current conditions amount to inhuman and degrading treatment of thousands of people, under the responsibility of the Greek Government.

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