In the new Lesbos camp, the dreams and disillusions of refugees

The catastrophe was expected. When the rains first fell on October 8, the new Kara Tepe camp on the Greek island of Lesbos was flooded. More than 600 people had to be evacuated. In this new camp, without water, sanitation, drainage, battered by rain and wind, the life of the 8,500 asylum seekers – 2,500 have been transferred to the mainland in recent weeks – is worse than that of Moria completely devastated by fire a month ago.

→ LARGE FORMAT. Lesbos: after Moria’s hell, Kara Tepe’s nightmare

Moria, however, was known worldwide as hell. In this immense jungle, many shattered minds had not resisted the harshness of existence and the endless wait for asylum procedures. These hostile lands were fertile ground for violence. But life had also gained the upper hand, with its early fruit stalls, its bread ovens dug in the ground, its hairdressers, its self-managed schools and all its activities.

The energy, endurance, resourcefulness and solidarity of these people command respect. Fatemeh and Farhad, on site, Rouddy and Michel, now settled in Mytilene, the largest town on the island, are a few examples.

► Rouddy, the energy of music

“Refugee, it’s a label, like a tampon that is printed all over your body, but I don’t feel like a refugee inside. ” Rouddy releases an extraordinary energy. “We’re going to get Lesbos moving! “, ignites the former Congolese computer scientist. Every Monday evening, a few musicians come to play on the main square of Mytilene. They are members of RADMusic – for Refugee African Dance -, the group he created last winter, quickly joined by Koko, a compatriot who has toured concerts and festivals throughout Africa.

In the new Lesbos camp, the dreams and disillusions of the refugees

Congolese, Cameroonians, Iranians, Greeks, Germans, etc., have joined RADMusic. After a special coronavirus song, One meter away, the group recorded Freedom – words of Rouddy – thanks to the reception of the Greek association Siniparxi (“coexistence”).

“People are going mad in the camp, over-t-yl. Music reconstructs, it connects people and gives joy. “ She rebuilds him first and foremost. He was refused asylum. He appealed the decision, still pending.

“I was very sick, MSF took care of me, but I just have to think about my family one night and I have a relapse. ” His father, an opponent of Congolese President Kabila, in power from 2001 to 2019, was assassinated. “My family has been destroyed. “ His mother left for the border with Angola. He, the eldest, fled “To seek peace and security”.

For three years he has been in Greece, Rouddy has traveled the country with documents that allow him to move. He taught computer science in Athens for nine months. “In Greece, there is no work, only NGOs can hire us. “ He returned to Lesbos as a Lingala translator for MSF. “People here spat on me. But I also met some good people. “

► Farhad and his 800 kites

« Lhe children cannot even see me anymore, they are not allowed to come to my tent. “ Farhad is heavy-hearted. In the new military camp of Kara Tepe, the lone men were grouped together in tents of one hundred bunk beds surrounded by barbed wire. “We are separated from families; Afghan families on one side, African families on the other, other nationalities elsewhere; and us, the lonely men; it is not good to separate nationalities ”, sighs this Afghan man in his thirties.

The sight of thousands of children – there were more than 3,000 under the age of 12 in the camp before the fire – playing with trash cans had been unbearable to him when he arrived in Lesvos thirteen months ago. “I wanted to help them, to give them hope, so I cut bamboo and made kites with plastic bags. ” Success assured.

→ DEBATE. Migrants: Europe seeks common ground on asylum

Romain, a French volunteer, then comes to his aid to provide him with equipment. The kite activity is gaining momentum quickly. Workshops are organized in the two self-managed schools that existed in the camp, Tolou (“Sunrise”) and Wave of Hope (“wave of hope”). “For the Persian New Year, last March 21, with a thousand children we made 500 kites that flew at the same time! “

Second salvo on August 29, when 300 new kites fly in the sky of Moria and echo the hundred kites launched on the Breton beach of Douarnenez, in support of the children of the camp. Everything was destroyed by the fire. “We no longer have a school, no more equipment. We are waiting for an authorization to have a place to invite the children, but everything is prohibited because of the coronavirus. ” Tormented, Farhad is still awaiting his interview, which has been postponed several times, for his asylum application.

► Fatemeh, school dreams

Boxes of burnt pencils. The carcasses of chairs in bulk. A bed of molten glass jars. The charred remains of a tube of paint. A pile of books reduced to ashes. This charred backdrop is all that remains of the Wave of Hope self-administered school in Camp Moria. “All the guitars burned down. Nothing is left. It’s like my own house is gone. “

In the new Lesbos camp, the dreams and disillusions of refugees

Fatemeh spent his days there. “I felt at home. ” The 18-year-old Afghan girl did everything there. She took care of the reception, cleaning, took German lessons, guitar and painting and sometimes even taught rudiments of English to replace a teacher. “Moria, it was not hell as they say, life was really very difficult, but we had our activities, our distractions. In the new camp, we have nothing left. You know, we’re not doing well at all. “

→ READ. Christian organizations call on EU for solidarity with migrants

Administrative aberration, Fatemeh had, alone, the green light to be transferred to Athens on September 29, after sixteen months spent in Lesbos. But not his mother or his little brother, who nevertheless also obtained asylum (his father is deceased). As for his 22-year-old big brother, he is the subject of a separate procedure as an adult and his case remains pending. Fatemeh suddenly gave up on leaving …

In Moria, she wants to run a new school with other girls. “I love learning so much! I have never been to school. I grew up in Iran where Afghan refugees did not go to school, then when we went to Turkey we were expelled to Afghanistan where I could not go to school either. I have spotted two places in the camp where we could recreate a school, but we need permission. “

► Michel, the African “chef”

“I was well in my country. I had a plot, a car, a salary. I had a good life. “ If he could, Michel would go back to “Congo Kinshasa” (DR-Congo), where he had to abandon his wife and children. “I will find them one day”, he wants to believe.

Michel is the assumed name of this Congolese giant who fears for his life. “I’m afraid of being sued. Poor migrants could be bought for 500 € to kill people. In the Moria camp, there was a lot of violence. At night we couldn’t sleep because of the fights. Men have died for a phone or something. “

In the new Lesbos camp, the dreams and disillusions of refugees

In his country, this television journalist was kidnapped and assaulted for having witnessed scenes he should not have seen. His parents were murdered by a militia. “I have evidence, scars, photos. “ On August 26, 2020, Greece granted him refugee status after eight months in Lesbos. But in the process, she removed the financial aid from him, under a new law. And she has not yet granted him freedom of movement. “I am waiting for permission to leave the island. I will have to wait months more, penniless, to obtain identity documents to leave the country. “

In the meantime, many Africans come to greet him. It is because with his stature, his authority and his charisma, Michel has established himself as a leader. “We Africans are suffering a lot, we need help. So I went to church, knocked on NGO doors. I had this courage, it is not easy. ” Since then, he is the person of trust who acts as a link between the NGOs and the African minority, who distributes food and basic necessities in the camp.


Landmarks: The Lesbos camp

In 2015, 500,000 migrants landed on Lesbos. In 2020 (until September 20), there were 4,337 new arrivals.

End 2019, le camp de Moria had more than 25,000 people.

Before the camp fire, September 9 and 10, 2020, there were 14,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Lesbos, including more than 11,700 in the camp.

→ MAINTENANCE. Fr Maurice Joyeux: “We had to expect the Lesbos camp to end in flames”

Since then, 406 unaccompanied minors have been transferred to Thessaloniki and must be hosted by different states of the European Union.

About 1,400 refugees were also transferred to the mainland September 28 and October 1. Germany has committed to welcoming 1,500, France 500.


Migrants’ vibrant faith in Mytilene, on the island of Lesbos

“When I give Communion and look them in the eye, I see so many things: so much helplessness and confusion, so much hope and confidence”, says Father Martin Schneeberger. This 63-year-old former hospital chaplain in Amsterdam now works in Lesvos and tears come to his eyes. “The faith of these migrants strengthens mine. “

The small Roman Catholic church, built in 1843 by French Franciscans, is almost nowhere to be found, hidden behind shops and apartments in Mytilene, the main town of this island where the population is of the Greek Orthodox faith.

→ LARGE FORMAT. Lesbos: after Moria’s hell, Kara Tepe’s nightmare

It has a hundred parishioners, but only a dozen are active in the parish. A Greek priest, “Father Leon”, lives on another island and can only come by boat sometimes once a week to say mass.

Meet the migrants

Martin Schneeberger has known the island for many years, but decided to settle there indefinitely in January 2020. He then went to Moria camp every day, where there were 22,000 asylum seekers. There he listened to the stories, heard about the miserable living conditions, until the camp was destroyed by fire on the night of September 8-9.

“You cannot know what to bless on Sunday after Mass: water, oil, salt, rosaries. When I ask why I bless the oil, they say to me: “The blessed oil gives more peace” », says the Dutch priest.

→ ANALYSIS. Christian organizations call on the EU for solidarity with migrants

Since 2015, the life of English teacher Len Meachim, who married a Greek and has lived on the island for years, has also changed dramatically. “Before, in my spare time, I used to like jogging, fishing or swimming. But when I saw how these refugees literally came out of the water, I couldn’t stand by and do nothing ”, he recalls.

During this great migratory wave, he stayed on the beach for months, day after day, with other parishioners, to welcome refugees, before the NGOs arrived in the south of the island. “I remember the first glass of water I gave to a child, and the reaction of his parents, he said. But it’s not just about food, water and clothing. We were there because it makes a difference when there is someone to greet you. “

A church as a haven of peace

The most vulnerable were brought to the camps by parishioners with their own cars, although this was officially prohibited. From the beginning, the parish actively cooperated with Siniparxi, an association of volunteer islanders that also helps refugees. Len Meachim quickly began teaching English, while a woman in the ward taught Greek lessons.

→ IN IMAGES. In the devastated Moria migrant camp

“When the first NGOs arrived, they saw us as amateurs, he regrets. It’s like we don’t need us anymore. Sometimes we felt we were no longer welcome. “

The small community began opening its church to refugees in 2015 – to come and pray or light a candle. Muslims also came regularly – “To be close to God, as they said”. For these migrants coming largely from the Middle East and Africa, the church was seen as a haven of peace and security. Then was asked a “Religious service”.

Len Meachim, English teacher and “sub-deacon”

The bishop, who is on another island, actively supports the small parish. He named Len an unpaid “subdeacon,” a post officially abolished in 1972, but which now gives the former English teacher some visibility in the Greek Orthodox context. He takes the lead in prayer services and is also authorized to give Communion.

“We need Bibles, especially in French. And rosaries ”, explains Len Meachim. “Bibles are going fast! Some refugees have been here for years, especially single men. Others leave quickly, especially women who are granted asylum more easily. “ Discreetly, after mass, he puts a two-euro coin in someone’s hand here and there.

That Sunday, there is a mass in French and in English at 11 a.m. Due to the precautionary measures taken because of the coronavirus epidemic, only twenty people are allowed to be present in the church. Others are sitting outside in the courtyard, under the scorching sun, where there is room for ten more people. Before the pandemic, more than a hundred refugees sometimes took part in religious service.

Miles to go to mass

Some of the faithful live in the city, others have walked ten kilometers from the new camp hastily made after the fire. “At the beginning, they could come from the camp by bus because there was a line which passed and we distributed them tickets”, recalls Len Meachim. When it stopped because of the coronavirus, “We hired a small bus to pick up the refugees.”

Then the church had to close. Later, only groups of ten visitors were allowed to be received. The parishioners then organized several religious services and they came in groups of ten. And now twenty. Some refugees have been here for two years, Len Meachim indignantly. “When they arrive, they are already traumatized but, stuck for a long time on the island, they are even more so. These people often have many talents that Europe could well use. I meet nurses among them, doctors… We create bitterness in some of them. “

“We have become a different type of believer”

“We have become a different type of believer”, connects the “sub-deacon”, who remains silent for a moment. “It’s hard for me to talk about it. All these meetings gave me even more than what I could give. What we are doing is normal, only we are doing it in an abnormal situation. I am touched that these people who have suffered so much at home and on the road must now live with this inhuman situation in Moria. And yet they come to church and sing with so much hope and joy! “ An African choir was formed, which sang with heart and enthusiasm. But he is no longer allowed to meet because of health precautionary measures.

On this Sunday, during mass, the refugees sing the song of thanksgiving How not to praise you, Lord. The Dutch priest greeted them with emotion, and went to the exit of the church to be able to do the same from the threshold with the people present in the small square of the church. “Words fail you in such a situation”, he whispers.

Catholics, a small minority in Greece

Catholicism has around 200,000 faithful in Greece, mostly immigrants, but there are around 50,000 ethnic Greeks among them. Most Greek Catholics belong to the Church of the Latin Rite, but a small number are members of the Hellenic Greek Catholic Church, of the Byzantine Rite.

The vast majority of the country’s inhabitants belong to the Greek Orthodox Church. Historically linked to the State, it benefits from special conditions. The members of the clergy thus come under a statute assimilating them to civil servants.

In 2018, then Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras tried to change this situation, through a constitutional review. Openly claiming his atheism, he found common ground in November 2018 with Bishop Ieronymos, Archbishop of Athens and all of Greece. But the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece had not given its consent.


Trystan Pütter on his trip to Moria

Mr Pütter, why were you on Lesbos last week? Filming? Disaster Tourism?

Julia Schaaf

Editor in the “Life” section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

I find the word “disaster tourism” cynical in this context. The situation on Lesbos and the Greek islands has moved me for a long time. But when I read the news on my cell phone or swipe down pictures on Instagram, everything has the same distant quality: someone is on vacation, I see police officers shooting tear gas in children’s tents, and afterwards someone has another film. The fires in Moria interrupted that for me. I had the feeling that it can’t stay abstract, that I have to do something.

You and your colleague Volker Bruch launched the “Los für Lesbos” fundraising campaign last summer and raised more than half a million euros.

Yes. Even before the fire, Moria was an inhumane place that should have been evacuated. With the campaign we wanted to support organizations that work specifically in this disaster camp. In this respect, I was also in conversation with the #LeaveNoOneBehind campaign on Lesbos to see where our money is getting through. But this trip came from me. I booked a flight, rented a small guesthouse and was there for a week.

Did you finance that privately?


Trystan Pütter and his colleague Volker Bruch launched the “Los für Lesbos” donation campaign in the summer.

Trystan Pütter and his colleague Volker Bruch launched the “Los für Lesbos” donation campaign in the summer.

Image: action press

How is it now in the burned down refugee camp?

Moria is a place of horror. Deserted, a hell of a fire. It is huge, located in a valley, you only see charred huts. Like in a horror movie. Standing there – hardly anyone far and wide, a few people look for the last useful things from the huts and pull them behind them along the street towards the new camp – I was incredibly shocked.

What does that mean?

I still find it hard to talk about because it hit me more deeply than I could ever have imagined. The place is like a memorial. A burn mark in our history. And I stood there – and couldn’t handle it. With these thousands of fates that I imagined. How it might feel when you’ve had to leave your home, when you’ve given up everything, created a tiny room with your last belongings in an injustice like Moria. And you lose that in a fire in which you catch your children and just run away. You can still feel this panic. Moria makes you tremble.

What are the living conditions like in the newly built camp?

Awful. It has nothing to do with humanity. The place alone: ​​a former military site where soldiers use metal detectors to search for remains of ammunition. The soil is certainly completely poisoned. And there are children running around everywhere. 4000 children live in this place. The camp is bounded on one side by the sea, around it are meter-high fences in a kind of triangle. In general, NATO wire is a main element within the warehouse. It is extremely hot, there is no protection from the sun; one is also at the mercy of the wind that whips in. Plus dust, yellow dust that settles on everything, on the tents, the people, the police cars.

And the people?


“Lesbos is a torture space without rights”

In a place where people are treated “like animals” and government aid is scarce, the greatest human solidarity is needed. Such as the one provided by the Basque NGO Zaporeak, which for four years has been offering food to refugees from Moria, on the Greek island of Lesbos. The tenacity of its volunteers has doubled since a fire destroyed the immigrant camp last week, to the point of doubling the food rations they deliver.

Every day, from eight in the morning they light their stoves to cook non-stop until four in the afternoon, when they receive 4,000 people who come for quality and compensated food, something that is like gold there, where they eat very little and without the necessary nutrients. This is what the coordinator Malen Garmendia tells it, who manages the arrival of fresh food hours before it is prepared, and who, like all her colleagues, is aware that everything they do “is never enough.”

Now that Moria is practically in ashes, chaos has ensued. The flames threw the 12,000 migrants previously cornered into the streets in confined spaces, without running water or hygiene points, a place where anyone can lose even hope. But Zaporeak tries not to be so. Although what they do is enough, their work does not end with delivering the food to complement that distributed by the Army, but rather they talk to them and give them a good treatment by serving them, showing them that they have not lost their identity, that they have names and They can still dream “We offer each one an opportunity, a space for socialization, unlike what the Army does,” says the volunteer.

Without solution

Although UNHCR has built a temporary shelter in record time that “they sell as if it were enabled, but it does not meet the necessary conditions”, there are still some 7,000 people who sleep on the sidewalks, suffering from cold and need. It is a measure that solves the problem in the short term, but for Garmendia it is counterproductive. He affirms that “they have not understood that a tragedy in such a place can happen again. Moria was burned by the conditions in which the immigrants were. Sooner or later it would happen. And they saw it coming.

However, they do it again. They confine the displaced despite the fact that, according to the coordinator, there are dozens of cases of coronavirus without knowing if these people have been isolated. The truth is that many do not want to enter for fear of contagion and poor conditions. The new camp is not much different from Moria. There is no water or electricity there either and as the Police enter more people the risk of the collapse of services increases. For now they prioritize women and children.

But that is not what the migrants want, who have already suffered a harrowing journey to get from their countries to Lesbos. They do not want to return to shelters that are “places of torture where human rights are not respected.” Their hope is that they help them regulate their status to begin normalizing their lives. But instead they are trapped, in a space where they suffer hunger and violence, crammed like cattle.

Precisely what Zaporeak is about is that these people do not lose the illusions that prompted them to get there in search of a happiness that seems to never come. Through their conversations over lunch they listen to those who suffer from chronic heart diseases, diabetes, malnutrition and also those with psychological problems. Its dining room gives them food, but also reasons not to lose heart in the middle of a gray loop that absorbs their expectations, and that almost completely dispels the long-awaited European dream.


In Lesbos, migrants and residents no longer want camps

The tension never ceases to rise on the island of Lesbos. The Greek police used tear gas on Saturday, September 12, in the face of a violent demonstration of migrants in the street since the fire in the Moria camp. While the local authorities try to put in place emergency solutions, with thousands of tents in a large fenced field, the migrants, for their part, say their fed up with this sordid camp where they have been waiting for months, some of the years, to be transferred.

→ THE FACTS. Moria fire: 400 minor migrants taken care of in ten European countries

Since the start of the week, the blaze has left more than 11,000 people homeless, including thousands of children. The migrants spread through the streets, roads or fields, using what they found to protect themselves from the scorching sun, tree branches to hang a tarp, reeds or tall grass for shelter, some of them taking refuge under the trees of the cemetery. And local aid groups have struggled to provide them with food and water.

Unsanitary living conditions

The majority of asylum seekers come from Afghanistan. The rest are mostly Syrians, Congolese and Iranians. They sleep on the asphalt, in parking lots, gas stations, in fields or even in a cemetery.Many are afraid of being locked up again after being confined to Moria because of the coronavirus epidemic. No one wants to relive such conditions: lack of hygiene, violence and almost daily fights between different ethnic groups.

→ READ. Greece: state of emergency declared on the island of Lesbos

On Saturday, hundreds of them demonstrated not far from the new temporary camp, with signs claiming ” Freedom ! “ or “We want to leave Moria”. Clashes erupted when demonstrators threw stones, police responding with tear gas. Many of these migrants are waiting to be allowed to go to other countries in Europe.

The Moria camp, the largest in Europe, long criticized for its overcrowding and deplorable sanitary conditions by the United Nations and human rights groups, burned in five successive fires on Tuesday evening and Wednesday. The authorities accuse the migrants of having set on fire. Shortly before the first fire, 35 people had tested positive for coronavirus and were to be placed in isolation.

Residents who can’t take it anymore

On the island, anger is mounting among the local population whose tourism economy has collapsed following the arrival of waves of migrants from Turkey. The mayor immediately said that efforts to build temporary camps were “Unrealistic”.

An opinion shared by the majority of the inhabitants. “It would be better if there were no more camps here. Especially because with the coronavirus epidemic, we don’t want them to be near us ”, gets angry with Kostas, whose house is near the entrance to the new structure. “Everyone is exhausted by this situation, the refugees and the locals”, he adds. Encouraged by local authorities, some residents organized blockades on the island’s roads to prevent bulldozers from passing and to delay the work.


the life of an Afghan refugee family in Lesbos fits in a cart

SEEN FROM ELSEWHERE – The middle-class Yussefi family ended up taking refuge on the Greek island after risking everything during a trip to Iran.


A woman observes a new temporary camp for migrants and refugees on the island of Lesvos, Greece, September 22, 2020.
A woman observes a new temporary camp for migrants and refugees on the island of Lesvos, Greece, September 22, 2020. YARA NARDI / REUTERS

Par Cristian Segura (El País)

Afghan hospitality is not lost, even when the hosts are a homeless family. On the Greek island of Lesbos, Masomeh Etemadi and Ismaël Yussefi ask their guests to sit with them on a tarp which they use as a meeting space; they also offer them water and food distributed to them by NGOs active in the region. They strive to maintain their dignity and good manners although they only have one room in a hut built with a few reeds and cloth tied to two olive trees, on a rubbish-covered embankment.

The country followed Etemadi and Yussefi for four days the week after the fire that destroyed Moria refugee camp. They had planted their meager things on the side of the road to the burned-out camp and, waiting to see what the future held in store for them, whether it was another calamity or a sign of hope, they chatted with their visitors and compatriots, always

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Lesbos: Moria refugee camp destroyed in fire

The image left yesterday by the fire in the Moria refugee camp, in Lesbos, is devastating: children walking alone looking for their parents, unaccompanied minors asking for help from volunteers and NGOs working around the clock to be able to provide sustenance for all people that they had to flee from the most sordid and inhospitable countryside in Europe in a hurry and with little time to collect their few belongings. The priority now is to protect the most vulnerable population and bring carp from nearby islands and food to offer a first solution. “At first there was no water. We have prepared 1,000 lunches and another 3,500 dinners, but it is insufficient “, explains with concern from the island Malen Garmendia, coordinator of the Gipuzkoan NGO Zaporeak in Moria. “The situation is dramatic,” he relates.

The refugee camp, which houses about 13,000 people, four times its capacity, was practically destroyed yesterday as a result of a fire caused after clashes between migrants. The situation in the countryside had long been unsustainable and the coronavirus pandemic has only added to the problems.


The fire broke out, according to the president of the community of the small town of Moria, Yiannis Mastroyiannis, after 35 people who had tested positive for Covid-19 refused to be transferred to an isolation center. From that moment, clashes began between the refugees themselves and some caused fires, both within the closed compound, the official camp, and in the olive grove that surrounds the camp, where thousands of migrants are poorly overcrowded.

“The fire originated with four small pockets of fire that soon became one more with the help of the wind and the people who were in the field stampeded. With the circumstances of Moria it was impossible to cope, since not even remotely could all the safety and hygiene measures be maintained to face the expected situation, ”assesses Peio Garcia Amiano, head of the Gipuzkoan NGO that operates on the island distributing food .

The flames, which burned the tents where the migrants and refugees were housed, began almost simultaneously at several points. The 25 firefighters and 10 vehicles that went to the scene stated that “there were no victims, but there were some minor injuries with respiratory problems from the smoke.” Controlling the fire was not easy, since not only were there continuous explosions, but groups of refugees attacked them with stones, according to local media.


At first, all the residents of Moria left the compound. “The vast majority left with what they put on,” they argue from Zaporeak. But throughout the morning many refugees, including children, began to move around the camp looking for belongings, a “very dangerous” situation, because there were still small flames and the temperatures of the charred objects were high.

“Most of the field is burned. The fire has devoured 70%. Many people fled as they could after the fire broke out, tried to take refuge in areas that they considered safer, tried to reach the city, but the controls of the local authorities prevented it. There is a lot of misinformation and little medical assistance and there is a lack of food. The situation is very serious ”, they explain from the island.

The work of the NGOs has been made even more difficult because the refugees are scattered around the camp, as far as help has to be made. “The NGO No Border Kitchen will cover the entire part of the Kara Tepe camp, where there are refugees in a vulnerable situation or with the possibility of obtaining asylum, and we will assist in the surroundings of Moria”, Malen Garmendia details.

Faced with this situation and after the Hellenic government decreed a state of emergency for the island, the European Commission announced that it will assume the immediate transfer to mainland Greece of 400 children and adolescents from the refugee camp.

The fire occurs a week after the appearance of the first case of Covid-19 in Moria, and a day after the health authorities confirmed that among the 2,000 people who had contact with a patient with the virus, 35 tested positive in the test and had to be isolated. For this reason, to stop the spread of the virus, the Greek Government indicated that it was forbidden to leave the island of all people living in Moria.

Comparison of the extent of the Moria field. Up September 2019 and down, January 2020
UNHCR asks refugees from burned camp not to try to go to Mytilene

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has asked the more than 12,000 refugees who have been affected by the Moria camp fire not to try to travel to the neighboring city of Mytilene, some seven kilometers away.

“We urge everyone to exercise containment, and we ask everyone who was at the center, which was under quarantine after 35 people tested positive for Covid-19, to restrict their movements and stay close to the field, while it is a temporary solution to give them shelter, “UNHCR said in a statement.

UNHCR stresses that there have already been tensions between asylum seekers and residents of localities neighboring the refugee camp when the former tried to reach Mytilene, whose road access from Moria has been cut off by the police.


state of emergency declared on the island of Lesbos

“The disaster in Moria is total”, admitted Manos Logothetis, the secretary general for the reception of asylum seekers in the Greek ministry for migration policy. On the night of September 8-9, the infamous Moria camp, Europe’s largest migrant camp, on the island of Lesbos, was devastated by flames.

The fire started after a rebellion

The firefighters were still evacuating, on the morning of the 9th, those of the 12,500 occupants – for 2,500 places – who were trying to pick up their meager possessions. The riot police, for their part, were setting up roadblocks to prevent their dispersion on the island. Meeting in an extraordinary ministerial conference on Wednesday morning, the Greek government declared a state of emergency on the island.

→ INVESTIGATION. Coronavirus: in the Moria camp, chronicle of an announced disaster

According to the Greek news agency ANA, the fire would have broken out after some of the 35 refugees, who tested positive for the coronavirus, would have rebelled against isolation measures in the camp, theoretically quarantined since the first case diagnosed September 2nd.

“The situation was unacceptable, inhuman on the island, we knew it would end badly, and it is the most serious scenario which occurs. ” Christina Psarra, director of Doctors Without Borders Greece does not hide her disgust: “There are already urgent needs for water and food, we must seek out the most vulnerable people, isolated children and adolescents, pregnant women, Covid cases”, she lists.

→ REPORT. In Lesbos, after the destructive madness, “we must pick up the pieces”

Messages of indignation and compassion have been heard from everywhere. Germany, which presides over the destinies of the EU, demanded, through its foreign minister, Heiko Maas, that member states take care of migrants, because of the “Humanitarian catastrophe” in Lesbos. So far, only 640 unaccompanied minors and sick children with their families have been taken in out of the 2,000 relocations promised last March by the volunteer countries.

“In Athens, there are no places available to accommodate people”

The European Commission has declared itself ready to finance “Immediate transfer and accommodation on the continent” of the 408 unaccompanied adolescents still present in Lesbos.

→ INVESTIGATION. In Greece, refugees under very high pressure

“But in Athens, the situation is also serious, there are no places available to accommodate people”, worries Christina Psarra, who has learned to doubt political goodwill. “In Lesbos, the authorities forced us to close, at the end of July, the 60-bed Covid clinic that we had installed to treat and isolate cases”, she denounces.

Up to 20,000 refugees on the streets

Philippe Leclerc, representative of the High Commission for Refugees in Greece, also paints a grim picture of the situation on the continent. “A lot of people end up on the street”, he testifies. Since March, 6,000 refugees have had to leave the camps or apartments they occupied, under a Greek regulation that suppresses all aid one month after official recognition of refugee status or obtaining subsidiary protection.

→ THE FACTS. Greece: Archbishop of Athens asks for help for refugees

The measure targets 8,000 other refugees. This is without counting the 6,000 asylum seekers supposed to leave the hotels where they are staying pending a decision concerning them, the European funding of this program due to end at the end of September. “The EU should at least extend this funding”, Philippe Leclerc discount. Without European solidarity, no hope of enlightenment on the skies of Lesbos.


Homeless refugees in Moria on Lesvos: police violence and a new camp

They just want to get away from the island and demonstrate for it on the street. The police set up water cannons against the people from the destroyed camp.

“No to the camp,” people shouted, reports a reporter from the news agency afp Photo: Reuters

BERLIN taz | After over 10,000 former residents of the burned down Moria refugee camp on Lesbos had to spend the fourth night outdoors, thousands of them demonstrated on Saturday and demanded to be removed from the island.

“No to the camp,” people shouted, as a reporter from the afp news agency described. Some protesters threw stones at the police. She kept using water cannons and tear gas against her. Mahdi Ahmadi, a 21-year-old Afghan, said he and other migrants “did not want to be transferred to a locked camp where there is neither security nor freedom”.

Observers from various NGOS spoke of a total escalation of violence. “Most have not eaten for three days and are completely dehydrated, children collapse from exhaustion,” reported the NGO Mare Liberum. Protesters were taken to hospital with breathing problems.

“We sleep in the dirt or on the street,” writes a group of former camp residents on Facebook. “We have nothing to cover ourselves with, not even a jacket to protect us from the night cold and wind.” Some refugees slept under the trees in the local cemetery.

500 new tents for 6 people each

On Friday, the military began to set up a makeshift tent camp on a former training area between the Moria camp and the island’s capital. 500 tents for 6 people each are to be set up there by Sunday. According to various media reports, the camp is said to be sealed off – anyone who is housed there should not be allowed out again for the time being.

During construction, the army was hampered by violent protests. Some residents stopped the construction crew’s bulldozers with roadblocks. The human rights organization Human Rights Watch warned on Saturday of “growing tensions between residents, asylum seekers and the police”.

Various local politicians attacked the Mayor of Mytilene, Stratis Kytelis, on Saturday. The latter tolerated the government in Athens to set up new structures for refugee accommodation. Instead of ensuring that no new camp is created and demanding that ships take in refugees and migrants, Kytelis is looking the other way, criticized opposition politician Niki Tsirigotis.

The first 40 refugees moved into the new tent camp on Saturday afternoon. All were subjected to a corona rapid test, one test was positive.

27 of the 35 camp residents with proven coronavirus infection, who the authorities had identified in the camp before the fire last Tuesday, have still not been found.

Soli-Demo in Hamburg

On Saturday, the authorities flew a child who was only 20 days old to Athens to be treated in a children’s intensive care unit. The infant had previously been taken to the island hospital in Lesbos with a fever. There, he and his mother were found to be infected with Covid-19. Neither the baby nor the mother, who comes from Afghanistan, were among the 35 people infected by Tuesday, nor were they among their around 100 known contact persons.

Around 1000 people demonstrated on Saturday in downtown Hamburg for more solidarity with refugees and migrants and against racism. With a view to the situation around Camp Moria, many participants carried banners and posters with inscriptions such as “We have the place!” Or “Bring it here!” And demanded the admission of refugees from the destroyed camp.


Short vs. Merkel: The sudden return of the migration duel

PSuddenly the television viewers see a young man on the screen, whom at that time hardly anyone in Germany knows. It’s Sebastian Kurz, 30 years old and Austrian Foreign Minister for almost four years. “I will certainly not interfere in the German debate,” says the politician, who was tuned into the “heute-journal” on this January evening in 2016. And then immediately interferes. In the years that followed, Kurz became Angela Merkel’s central European opponent when it came to migration. With the fires in the Moria refugee camp, the old conflict between Kurz and Merkel has become topical again.