Refugee camp on toxic land, potentially life threatening for small children!
The new “temporary” camp in Kara Tepe, Lesvos, is as we all know built partially on an old military firing range. For the government this already restricted area was perfect, it was already fenced in. As all military areas there is a lot of restrictions, the most important ones are the restrictions of movement and the restrictions on taking pictures.
The camp area has been criticized by many, because it’s just not suited to house people, in flimsy tents when the winter is approaching. It’s at the sea, without any protection from heavy winds that usually pounds this area. The area also floods frequently, the tents are built straight on the ground, there is no drainage system. When it’s really starts to rain, and it will, there will be mud everywhere, outside and inside the tents. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s a high possibility, that the very land the camp is built on is toxic.
As previously mentioned, it’s an old military firing range, that has been used by the military for decades. We can assume that the military has used a variety of weapons, that over the years, have packed the ground with hazardous materials. The main concern is the possibility of lead contamination. The presence of lead and lead dust is well documented on such sites as are the extreme danger to health if lead is absorbed by children. Children younger than 6 years are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely affect mental and physical development. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.
As we all know, UNHCR are assisting the Greek authorities in resettling displaced families, many of them children, on this new site. They have a special responsibility, due to their involvement, to assure that the area used is suitable and safe to live on. UNHCR have rehoused displaced families on highly toxic land in the past, and should have learned by their previous mistakes.
Following the war in Kosovo in 1999, UNHCR rehoused displaced families on highly toxic land. This is also well documented, particularly so on a website that followed the situation over a number of years. www.toxicwastekills.com
It resulted in childrens’ blood lead levels higher than instruments could measure. There is no level of lead so low that children’s health will not be damaged. Very young children often absorb it through licking lead paint etc as they find it pleasant. This is also well documented. Pregnant women can transfer absorbed lead to foetuses through the placenta. It attacks all organs of the body but also causes irreversible brain damage. Now UNHCR is helping to place men, women and children on an old military firing range near Kara Tepe on Lesvos. This could be yet another deadly mistake in the making.
Due to the fact that it took only 5 days to put up this camp, after the fire in Moria, it’s highly unlikely that any proper survey has been taken. This new site requires urgent toxicity checking by independent experts to reveal whether lead is present on the new site, which could indicate an evacuation might be necessary to protect the lives of vulnerable children. The concern has already been addressed by email to Astrid Castelein, head of the UNHCR sub office on Lesvos, and the main UNHCR office in Greece, so far without any reply.
Some areas in the camp has been leveled out by bulldozers, in other areas soil from the leveled areas has been reused as landfill. By doing so, things that has been buried in the ground for decades has resurfaced, possibly making the situation even worse. Residents in the camp have found remains of ammunition casings and grenades around the tents, and military personnel have been observed using metal detectors in the outskirts of the camp. To see small children who have fled war, play with used ammunition in a European refugee camp, should raise some questions.
If this isn’t enough, a proposal to create a new “reception and identification centre” structure with a capacity of 2,500 people, and a planned 500 employees overall, in the area of the former shooting range of Kamenos Dasos (Camlik) in central Lesvos seems to have been passed, as the majority of Mytilene municipal authority confirmed. These areas would never have been approved to build houses, schools or kindergartens, but seems to be more than good enough for these children..
Greece : Migrant Camp Lead Contamination
Inadequate Government Response; Lack of Transparency Put Health at Risk
The Greek government should release test results and other vital information about lead contamination in a migrant camp on Lesbos island to protect the health of residents and workers, Human Rights Watch said today.
After testing soil samples in November, the government confirmed publicly on January 23, 2021 the presence of dangerous levels of lead in the soil in the administrative area of the Lesbos camp. It says that samples from residential areas showed lead levels below relevant standards but did not release the locations where samples were collected or the actual test results. The government has yet to indicate that it will take the necessary steps to adequately assess and mitigate the risk, including comprehensive testing and measures to remove people from areas that could be contaminated.
“The Greek government knowingly built a migrant camp on a firing range and then turned a blind eye to the potential health risks for residents and workers there,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch. “After weeks of prodding, it took soil samples to test for lead contamination while denying that a risk of lead exposure existed. It did not make the results public for over seven weeks, and has yet to allow independent experts to analyze them or vow to take the necessary steps to protect residents and workers and inform them about the potential health risks.”
Human Rights Watch published a report in December documenting that thousands of asylum seekers, aid workers, and United Nations, Greek, and European Union employees may be at risk of lead poisoning in the Lesbos camp. Greek authorities built the new camp, Mavrovouni (also known as new Kara Tepe), on a repurposed military firing range. It now houses 6,500 people. According to a government announcement on January 23, one out of 12 soil samples taken in November came back on December 8 with lead levels that “exceeded the acceptable limit.” The announcement also mentions some steps to mitigate the risk.
Human Rights Watch has requested the Greek government and the European Commission, which financially supports the camp and with which the government shared the results, to release the testing plan and the test results, which should include such information as the levels of lead for each sample, the sample depths and exact locations, a complete history of the site with location specifity, the expertise of those conducting the testing, the sampling methodology, and information on chain of custody. To date, neither the Greek government nor the European Commission has made this information available.
This lack of transparency means that it is impossible to assess the adequacy of the testing, evaluate what the results represent, or recommend specific strategies to address the identified risks. As a result, it is impossible to determine whether the measures laid out in the January 23 statement, such as adding new soil, gravel, and a cement base in some areas, are adequate to protect people who live and work in the camp.
In early September, large fires broke out inside the Moria camp, the Reception and Identification Center on Lesbos, which was housing 12,767 migrants, mostly women and children. Within days, the authorities constructed Mavrovouni and said they would construct a new permanent camp. Young children and women of reproductive age are most at risk for negative effects from lead exposure.
In a meeting with Human Rights Watch on January 20, Minister for Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi said that he hoped that the residents of Mavrovouni would not spend another winter there, but did not specify when the new camp would be ready. Construction has yet to begin.
Mavrovouni functioned as a military firing range from 1926 to mid-2020. Firing ranges are well recognized as sites with lead contamination because of bullets, shot, and casings that contain lead and end up in the ground. Lead in the soil from bullet residue can readily become airborne, especially under dry and windy conditions, which are often present on Lesbos. Lead is highly toxic when ingested or inhaled, particularly to children and anyone who is pregnant or lactating. The World Health Organization (WHO) maintains that there is no known safe level of blood lead concentration. Lead degrades very slowly, so sites can remain dangerous for decades.
After multiple representations by Human Rights Watch to various Greek authorities, the European Commission, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the WHO, the Greek government and the EU Commission commissioned the Hellenic Authority of Geology and Mineral Exploration to take 12 soil samples on November 24. According to the government, 11 soil samples showed lead levels “below the acceptable limits for lead in soil,” based on Dutch standards.
The 12th sample, taken from what authorities described as an “administrative area” on the Mavrovouni hill, “at the end of the firing range,” showed elevated levels of lead above acceptable limits, but authorities did not reveal the concentration of lead in the soil. Mitarachi told Human Rights Watch that the area that showed lead levels above acceptable limits was fenced off, but residents and two aid workers said there were no fences inside the camp in that area or signs warning of a contaminated area. At least five aid organizations have offices in that area. An aid worker said residents, sometimes as many as 200 and including children, line up there for support and information. Younger children risk ingesting lead as they play or sit on contaminated ground.
Human Rights Watch was unable to determine whether the government shared any information with humanitarian agencies about the testing results, but calls with agencies including UNHCR and the WHO indicated that they were not aware of them prior to the January 23 release. A staff member from one aid organization there said that at least one aid worker in the camp is currently pregnant, and 118 camp residents are pregnant, based on November government data.
An environmental expert whom Human Rights Watch consulted said that, given the potential size of the affected area and the likelihood that elevated levels are the result of historic activity, the fact that one out of 12 samples in an area came back positive should trigger further testing.
International law obligates countries to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to the highest attainable standard of health. The UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment’s Framework Principles on Human Rights and the Environment, which interpret the right to a healthy environment, emphasize the need for “public access to environmental information by collecting and disseminating information and by providing affordable, effective and timely access to information to any person upon request.” The Aarhus Convention, to which Greece is a party, provides a right to receive environmental information held by public authorities.
Greek authorities should immediately release the results and testing plan to the public, and take measures to mitigate the risk to the health of camp residents and workers, Human Rights Watch said. The authorities should ensure that residents and workers are informed about the results and measures to protect their health in languages they can understand. The authorities should also urgently undertake further testing and allow independent experts to comment on investigative work plans, audit the soil testing process, and collect split samples (a sample that is separated into at least two parts so that testing can be carried out at two or more seperate laboraties in order to confirm results) or carry out independent testing.
The European Commission, which financially supports Greece to manage the camp and has staff stationed there, EU agencies, Frontex, and the European Asylum Support office, as well as United Nations agencies, UNHCR, UNICEF, the IOM and the WHO, should urge Greek authorities to make the detailed results and testing plan public, and push authorities to find alternative and safe housing solutions for those affected, including the option of moving them to the mainland. The European Commission, which was given the results and testing plan by the Greek government, should also make public the detailed information it received on the results and the methodology of the testing, to allow independent experts to comment on the risk to residents and workers in the camps.
“Greece and its EU partners have a duty to make sure that people who live and work in the Mavrovouni camp are safe,” Wille said. “That requires transparency about the risks as well as urgent steps to mitigate them.”
In its January 23 statement and in its meeting with Human Rights Watch on January 20, the Greek government made several inaccurate claims regarding remediation and protection of residents. In its statement, the government claimed that after soil samples were taken on November 24, “while awaiting the results” it removed the tents directly on the firing range strip. But satellite imagery and residents’ and workers’ statements indicate that no tents were removed until between December 11 and 16, after the test results were received.
Satellite imagery and aid organization mapping of the camp shows that by January 10, 79 tents remained on the firing range, with 58 more at the base of the hill. The residents in those tents may be at increased risk of coming into contact with contaminated soil, particularly when it rains. In addition, after some tents were removed, three migrants and two aid workers told Human Rights Watch that residents have been using the area for football and other recreation. Authorities have not fenced off the area or notified residents of the health risks.
Since the site was tested, major construction work and heavy rains in the area mean that potentially contaminated soil from the hill and firing range area may have moved to other parts of the camp, which warrants further testing.
Human Rights Watch received information from multiple sources that on January 18, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which runs two assistance programs in the camp, suspended its operations at its tent on the hill. In response to a Human Rights Watch query, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Greece confirmed that, “Following the announcements regarding lead detection outside the accommodation areas and while waiting for more information from the authorities, IOM staff has been advised to remain inside the residential area.”
In an aid briefing on January 19, the sources said it was revealed that the decision was made because of elevated levels of lead found in the “blue zone” of the camp, an area that includes the firing range and the base of the hill where the IOM Helios tent is located, as well as other aid tents including that of Médecins du Monde (MdM), and the International Rescue Committee (IRC). IOM staff have yet to return to the camp, but aid workers still in the camp said there is still no fencing or signage around that area. According to the camp residents and two aid workers, and 24 photos and videos taken from inside Mavrovouni by the DunyaCollective, a media collective, since December, authorities have been moving large quantities of soil, including removing some from the hill behind the IOM Helios tent.
On January 23, Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders or MSF) issued a statement raising its concerns at the lack of appropriate government and EU action in the face of the testing results. On January 26, a group of 20 nongovernmental groups issued a joint statement calling on the Greek authorities to immediately evacuate camp residents and transfer them to appropriate structures on the mainland and elsewhere, such as hotel units.
Aerial footage from January 14 shows tents still present in the part of the camp built on the former firing range at that date starting at around 02:00.
Greece: Lead Poisoning Concerns in New Migrant Camp
Thousands of asylum seekers, aid workers, United Nations, and Greek and European Union employees may be at risk of lead poisoning in a new migrant camp that Greek authorities have built on a repurposed military firing range on the island of Lesbos, Human Rights Watch said today.
Firing ranges are commonly contaminated with lead from munitions, nevertheless the authorities did not conduct comprehensive lead testing or soil remediation before moving migrants to the site in September 2020. Evidence collected by migrants moved to the site also indicated that authorities have also failed to clear all unexploded mortar projectiles and live small arms ammunition, which could injure or kill if disturbed or handled.
“Putting thousands of migrant adults and children, along with aid workers, on top of a former firing range without taking the necessary steps to guarantee they would not be exposed to toxic lead is unconscionable,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Greek authorities should promptly conduct a comprehensive site assessment of soil lead levels and release the results.”
In November and early December, Human Rights Watch interviewed four people living in the camp, two aid workers, one Greek migration ministry employee working in the camp, and four medical and environmental experts, and reviewed academic research on the risk of soil lead contamination at shooting ranges and medical research on the health risks of lead poisoning. Human Rights Watch did not have access to conduct on-site research, but analyzed photos and videos of the site and satellite imagery to confirm the firing range location.
The Asylum and Migration Ministry began major construction work at the end of November at the site, called Mavrovouni camp, that could disturb any lead contaminated soil, further exposing residents and workers. The work to improve access to electricity and water and reduce the risk of flooding began despite warnings from Human Rights Watch of the potential of increased risk of lead poisoning.
In early September, large fires broke out inside the Moria camp, the Reception and Identification Center on Lesbos that was housing 12,767 migrants, mostly women and child migrants. Within days, authorities constructed Mavrovouni (also known as new Kara Tepe) as a temporary camp and told people that they would begin construction of a new permanent camp for use by June 2021. According to the media, Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi, has recently indicated the new camp will only be ready by Autumn 2021. Currently 7,517 people, mostly from Afghanistan and Syria, are staying at Mavrovouni, which started functioning as a military firing range in 1926 and was in use until the camp was constructed in September 2020, Mitarachi said.
In response to letters from Human Rights Watch, Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi stated in a November 19 letter that the camp had “no lead contamination,” but provided no evidence for the basis of that assertion. He said the government has agreed to conduct soil testing with the European Commission within one month, but has not revealed the nature of the testing, the areas to be tested, or the methodology. A Hellenic army representative called Human Rights Watch on December 1, stating his intention to respond to a letter received on November 4 from Human Rights Watch, raising urgent concerns. But no response has been received. On December 6, General Secretary for Asylum Seekers’ Reception Manos Logothetis, called Human Rights Watch to dispute the risk of lead contamination at the camp. He confirmed that no soil testing for lead had taken place prior to moving people to the camp, but said that authorities are awaiting the results of soil testing conducted recently in collaboration with the Institute of Geology and Mineral Exploration (IGME).
“No one just shows up without a plan,” Dr. Gordon Binkhorst, vice president of global programs at Pure Earth, told Human Rights Watch. “Sharing of a well-founded work plan beforehand is key to transparency and ensuring confidence in the findings.” Greek authorities should allow independent experts to comment on investigative work plans, audit the soil testing process and collect split samples for independent testing.
“The authorities should share documentation of work completed and a comprehensive site investigation work plan based on a review of the site history, contaminants of concern, a conceptual site model of how such contaminants are released to and migrated in the environment, and a comprehensive testing plan that evaluates the degree and extent of contamination in the environment, and potential exposure routes,” Dr. Binkhorst said.
Firing ranges are well-recognized as sites with lead contamination because of bullets, shot, and casings that contain lead and end up in the ground. Lead in the soil from bullet residue can readily become airborne, especially under dry and windy conditions, which often exist on Lesbos. Lead is a heavy metal that is highly toxic to humans when ingested or inhaled, particularly by children and during pregnancy. It degrades very slowly, so sites can remain dangerous for decades.
The World Health Organization maintains that there is no known safe level of lead exposure. Elevated levels can impair the body’s neurological, biological, and cognitive functions, leading to learning barriers or disabilities; behavioral problems; impaired growth; anemia; brain, liver, kidney, nerve, and stomach damage; coma and convulsions; and even death. Lead also increases the risk of miscarriage and can be transmitted through both the placenta and breast milk.
Small children and women of reproductive age are at particular risk. According to Greek authorities, on November 19, 2,552 out of 7,517 people in the camp were children, 997 of them under age 5, and 1,668 were women – 118 of whom have said they are five or more months pregnant.Camp residents shared 17 photographs of items they said they had found in the ground around their tents, including an intact 60mm mortar projectile and a tail fin assembly for another 60mm mortar projectile, cartridge casings for rifle bullets, fired 12-gauge shotgun cartridges, and live pistol, rifle, machine gun, and shotgun ammunition. Intact munitions, such as 60mm mortar projectiles and small arms ammunition, pose an immediate explosive hazard and should be removed urgently from the area.
“We try to stop our children from going to play up the hill because we know there might be bullets and other things the army didn’t clear that could be dangerous,” one camp resident said. Munitions containing lead can be extremely dangerous when swallowed by children or contaminate the soil, a medical expert told Human Rights Watch.
The authorities should conduct a thorough and transparent assessment of lead levels in the soil and dust, as well as other possible pathways to exposure, and make the results publicly available. Any work that might increase exposure should be paused until after the soil has been tested or until people have been removed from the camp and housed in adequate facilities, Human Rights Watch said. If lead is present in the soil, authorities should provide free blood testing and treatment for camp residents, aid workers, police, and others who might have been exposed, prioritizing young children and women of reproductive age, and immediately move exposed residents to a safe location and remediate the contaminated areas.
“The Greek government could be putting at risk families with young children, aid workers, and its own employees because it’s determined to hold asylum seekers on the island,” Wille said. “If this is where the government is trying to force asylum seekers to live on Lesbos, then all the more reason to transfer people to the mainland.”
Tents on a Firing Range
The Mavrovouni site sits on a large plot of military-owned land, some of which was used as a military firing range since 1926. The Asylum and Migration Ministry said that it covered the site with “new levels of soil” before the camp was opened.
Human Rights Watch reviewed satellite imagery from before and after construction began on the camp on September 11, 2020. Imagery from before shows a firing range on part of the site next to Mavrovouni Hill. By September 28, more than 200 tents had been set up directly on the former firing range itself, with more tents on adjacent areas.
Satellite imagery from June, before Moria camp was destroyed by fire, shows some basic clearance of vegetation cover within a rectangular strip that included the firing range, as well as a small section at the base of Mavrovouni Hill. From the imagery, it is impossible to determine the depth of the soil removal and whether the remediation of lead impacted soil was completed in accordance with prevailing standards and guidelines, or if it was just a superficial scraping of topsoil.
Human Rights Watch was unable to determine what soil removal activities took place between June and September, when the camp opened, or of other activities to decontaminate the ground or where soil removed was disposed of. Given the speed of camp construction, it is very unlikely that authorities could have carried out remediation of lead-impacted soil before setting up the tents. Greek authorities have indicated that new soil was placed prior to construction of the camp, with no location indicated.
Satellite imagery analysis, combined with a review of photos and videos of the firing range that were posted online in the spring, shows that the military was shooting from the southwest toward targets in the northeast, at the foot of Mavrovouni Hill. This suggests that soil on the hillside might also be contaminated by lead.
Imagery recorded between September 14 and 16, shows at least 300 tents just south of the hill without any prior signs of soil clearance, with another at least 170 added in the following days. Imagery from late November shows further ground preparation southeast of the hill, and the construction of four large structures.
Medical and environmental experts interviewed said it was risky to conduct further work in the camp without first conducting soil samples. “Disturbing this area will mobilize the lead in the soil and make it more vulnerable to dispersion from periodic rainfall, flooding, and wind erosion,” said Jack Caravanos, professor of global environmental health at New York University. Dr. Caravanos has visited and assessed dozens of lead-contaminated sites throughout the world and expressed dismay over how this site was chosen without proper environmental investigation.
A European Commission official who is involved in migration policy with Greece said that the Greek Defense Ministry claimed that “no pieces of lead were observed on the ground” during construction or other work. Because lead dust is usually not visible, this claim raises concerns about the seriousness of the Greek government’s assessment.
A source close to the police said that the government had considered turning the firing range into a camp site as early as 2015. At the time, authorities rejected the proposal for several reasons, the source said, including because it had been a firing range. It is unclear why the government ignored these concerns in 2020. A migration ministry employee working on the camp who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that in September, before Mavrovouni was selected, the government met with a few larger nongovernmental organizations, and discussed at least two or three alternative locations.
In his letter to Human Rights Watch, Minister Mitarachi said that the range had only been used for “small arms (straight trajectory), commonly only bullets, and not for other types of ammunition.” This ammunition, he said, “according to the Greek Army, contains no lead.” He added that the army had searched the camp for munitions prior to opening, and again 20 days later, and “reported no findings.”In contrast to these claims, bullets used for rifles, pistols, and machine guns as well as shot used by shotguns usually contain lead, which is used in bullets for its density and penetrating ability. Research at firing ranges has found that the discharge of lead dust from shooting results in soil contamination. Research has shown that elevated blood lead levels are commonly found in users of these sites, even among those who use them for limited amounts of time for recreational purposes.
The large amount of fired small arms casings and cartridges found at the camp indicates an equally large number of bullets and shot might be buried beneath the ground where they landed. Other areas near the firing range may have been affected, including from relocation of soil associated with the construction of the camp or historic clearing of soils and munitions from the firing range. Thus, it is likely that any soil contamination extends beyond the firing range. Greek authorities provided no documentation for their claim that all the munitions used at the firing range were lead-free. This claim is highly questionable, given that lead-free bullets are expensive and very rare, particularly prior to the 1980s. Some bullets have an external metal-alloy coating that may make them appear to be lead-free, but the coating disintegrates relatively quickly when the bullet enters the soil, and the lead core becomes exposed. In addition, the photographic evidence from camp residents does not appear to support this contention.
Camp residents shared with Human Rights Watch five photographs, one dated September 20, and two videos of the Hellenic Army’s Land Mine Clearance Squad carrying out clearance activities without any protective equipment and disregarding distancing between them and camp residents needed for safe ammunition clearance activities.
The migration ministry employee working in the camp who spoke on the condition of anonymity said she remembered clearance operations taking place around that date: “There were soldiers who had this machine to detect metal walking amongst us. They were so close that we had to pick up our feet from the ground so they could check right under us.” A government employee’s union made a formal complaint about general working conditions at the camp, including their concerns around these clearance activities.
In addition to camp residents, anyone working inside the camp could also face potential lead exposure from spending time in the camp if the soil is contaminated. Residents, aid workers, and the migration ministry employee said that these include staff from the Hellenic police, Hellenic army, municipality, First Reception Service, Asylum Service, National Public Health Organization (EODY), European Commission, European Asylum Support Office (EASO), European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), Europol, IOM, UNHCR, UNICEF, World Health Organization, Red Cross, and at least eight other medical and aid groups.
Risks of Lead Poisoning for At-risk Groups
Symptoms of lead poisoning are often not diagnosed as such but its adverse health effects can be irreversible. The severity of symptoms increases with prolonged exposure. Globally, lead exposure is estimated to account for up to one million deaths annually, with the highest burden in low- and middle-income countries. Poor and disadvantaged populations are more vulnerable because undernourishment increases the amount of ingested lead the body absorbs.
Children are especially at risk because they absorb four to five times as much lead as adults, and their brains and bodies are still developing. In addition, small children often put their hands in their mouths or play on the ground, which increases their likelihood of ingesting or inhaling lead in dust and dirt. Exposure during pregnancy can result in stillbirth, miscarriage, and low birth weight, and can negatively affect fetal brain development. At least 118 pregnant women and 2,552 children are at the site, according to government data.
Mohammed Hafida, a camp resident with three young children whose wife is pregnant, said that when they first moved to the camp it was particularly dusty. “When cars drove past the tents there was dust everywhere,” he said. “That only went away once the rain set in two weeks later. But the camp is on a hill, and so when it rained for several hours, many of the tents collapsed. This isn’t a camp, it’s a hell.”
People living in the camp said that for the first few weeks, they had been sleeping on blankets and mattresses on the dusty ground, but more recently aid workers had added flooring to the tents. Even as rainfall increased, residents reported that dust would still enter the tents including in the cooking areas. Camp residents said they have to clean dust out of their tents multiple times a day because cars are driving on adjacent gravel roads. Children often play in the dusty area by the roads. A medical expert said that small children at the camp are at very serious risk for as long as they are exposed to dust that could be contaminated.
Camp authorities did not inform residents that there could be a risk of lead exposure at the site. Medical and environmental experts said that given the known risks of lead exposure at firing ranges, comprehensive soil testing should have been carried out before even considering it as a possible location for the camp. They warned of specific risks of lead poisoning for small children who are most at risk. “Remediation can be very difficult,” said Caravanos, the NYU professor of global environmental health. “I can’t imagine that you could make it safe without removing everyone if lead was found in the soil.”
On November 17, Human Rights Watch was notified about significant planned construction work, which the Asylum and Migration Ministry confirmed in a letter dated November 19. On November 26, Human Rights Watch sent a letter with detailed findings to the Greek Ministries of Asylum and Migration and Defense, which it also shared with EU officials and representatives from UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, and the World Health Organization, saying that these actions risk further exposing residents and construction workers to any potentially lead-contaminated dust and soil. Despite these warnings, on November 30, residents of the camp informed researchers that large construction was underway, including on top of Mavrovouni hill.
The authorities should have been aware of the amount of dust construction causes at the site. During the construction of the camp in September, the migration ministry employee said, workers had been moving around lots of soil to make room for the camp structure and “There was a lot of dust everywhere for days. I kept finding dust and even little pebbles in my ears at that time.”
Unsatisfactory Clearance Operation
Three people interviewed in November said that the authorities forced them to move to the camp after the fires in Moria camp by threatening that the government would stop their asylum claims if they refused. All three have found and provided Human Rights Watch with photographs of munition remnants since moving to Mavrovouni in September. They all said that after moving to the site, they saw the Greek military conduct clearance operations without protective gear, and they shared videos of those operations with Human Rights Watch.
In the videos and photographs, the camp tents and migrants are clearly visible, confirming that some clearance activities took place after people were already living there. A Syrian man whose wife is nine-months pregnant with their first child said that, after they had moved into the camp, he saw the military find and remove at least one cartridge casing. Another camp resident said that since arriving, he has found many bullets on the ground but the “authorities haven’t told us what to do if we find them, or other kinds of munitions.”
Access to Health Care
Two medical staff from a team providing health care in Mavrovouni camp said on November 10 that, since arriving at the camp in October, they had not heard anything about possible lead exposure. Both said that the camp had “decent” health care services considering that it was a temporary camp, but that the laboratory inside the camp does not have the capacity to perform blood tests for lead levels. Both said that because of the nature of the symptoms of lead poisoning, which are also symptoms of other illnesses, it would be extremely difficult to diagnose potential cases without blood tests.
Both medical staff and a doctor who had worked previously at the camp said it was very difficult for camp residents to visit the hospital due to movement restrictions related to Covid-19.
Parallels to Kosovo Incident
This is not the first time that people living in a camp are put at risk of lead poisoning. For more than a decade following the end of the war in Kosovo in 1999, about 600 Roma, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptian minority members lived in camps for displaced people operated by the UN. The camps sat on land contaminated by lead from a nearby industrial mine. In 2016, a United Nations human rights advisory panel found that the UN mission in Kosovo (the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK) had violated the affected people’s rights to life and health. Human Rights Watch documented that camp residents experienced lasting health impacts and are still awaiting compensation and health and educational support for themselves and their families, seven years after the last camp was closed in 2013.
International Legal Obligations
International law obligates states to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to the highest attainable standard of health. The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which monitors governments’ compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in its General Comment 14 on the right to health, has interpreted the covenant to include:
[T]he requirement to […] the prevention and reduction of the population’s exposure to harmful substances such as radiation and harmful chemicals or other detrimental environmental conditions that directly or indirectly impact upon human health.
The right to health encompasses the right to healthy natural environments. The right to a healthy environment, which is also enshrined in the Greek constitution, involves the obligation to “prevent threats to health from unsafe and toxic water conditions.”
The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and the environment’s Framework Principles on Human Rights and the Environment, which interpret the right to a healthy environment, emphasize the need for “public access to environmental information by collecting and disseminating information and by providing affordable, effective and timely access to information to any person upon request.” The Committee on the Rights of the Child, the treaty body that monitors compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Greece is a party, when describing the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, calls on states to take appropriate measures “to combat disease and malnutrition … taking into consideration the dangers and risks of environmental pollution.”
Responsibilities of the Greek Parliament and European Union
Members of the Greek parliament should pay attention to the concerns that there may be lead contamination at Mavrovouni camp and assess the Greek government’s compliance with its obligations under national, European, and international law to realize the rights to health and healthy environment. They could hold a hearing or establish an inquiry to establish which government employees were involved in approving the site, the extent to which they knew or should have known about the risk of lead contamination, why they decided to move people to the site without first conducting comprehensive soil testing, and why, despite multiple concerns about lead contamination raised after the camp was opened, the authorities greenlighted construction work without first conducting comprehensive soil testing. They should take appropriate action to ensure accountability if merited.
The European Commission, which financially supports Greece to manage the camp and has staff stationed there, as well as EU agencies, Frontex, and EASO, should urge Greek authorities to comprehensively test for lead and make the testing plan and results public.
Human Rights Watch and other nongovernmental groups have long warned European leaders about the dire conditions in island camps, also known as hotspots. These have been exacerbated by Greek authorities’ containment policy, which has blocked transfers to the mainland. For years, residents were crammed into overcrowded, inadequate tents, with limited access to food, water, sanitation, and health care, including during the pandemic and despite the risk of Covid-19. The EU and Greece should fundamentally reconsider their hotspot approach on the Greek Islands and end policies that lead to the containment of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers in unsuitable, and in this case potentially hazardous, facilities.
HRW calls for transparency over lead contamination at Lesvos migrant camp
Greek authorities should release test results and other vital information about lead contamination at the Kara Tepe migrant camp on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos to protect the health of residents and workers, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday.
After testing soil samples in November, authorities earlier this month confirmed dangerous levels of lead in the soil in the administrative area of the facility, also known as Mavrovouni, which was built on a repurposed military firing range. They said that samples from residential areas showed lead levels below relevant standards but did not release the locations where samples were collected or the actual test results, the New York-based organization said.
HRW said that officials have yet to indicate that they will take the necessary steps to adequately assess and mitigate the risk, including comprehensive testing and measures to remove people from areas that could be contaminated.
“The Greek government knowingly built a migrant camp on a firing range and then turned a blind eye to the potential health risks for residents and workers there,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at HRW.
“After weeks of prodding, it took soil samples to test for lead contamination while denying that a risk of lead exposure existed. It did not make the results public for over seven weeks, and has yet to allow independent experts to analyze them or vow to take the necessary steps to protect residents and workers and inform them about the potential health risks,” she said.
According to a report published by HRW in December, thousands of asylum seekers, aid workers, and United Nations, Greek, and European Union employees may be at risk of lead poisoning.
The Kara Tepe facility currently houses 6,500 people.
“Greece and its EU partners have a duty to make sure that people who live and work in the Mavrovouni camp are safe,” Wille said.
“That requires transparency about the risks as well as urgent steps to mitigate them,” she said.
Deal signed for construction of new migrant centers
Migration Minister #Notis_Mitarakis and the director of the European Commission, #Beate_Gminder, have signed a financing agreement for the construction of new closed structures on the eastern Aegean islands of #Samos, #Kos and #Leros.
The funding for these projects will be fully covered by the European Commission.
Also on Friday, the working group for the coordination of the procedures for the final termination of the operations of the reception and identification centers in #Vathi on Samos and on Leros met for the first time.
The group’s main objective is the coordination of all involved bodies (Ministry of Health, the National Public Health Organization, local authorities, the Hellenic Police, the armed forces, the fire brigade and international bodies) to ensure the smooth shutdown of the existing structures and the operation of the new closed facilities of Samos and Leros.
#asile #migrations #réfugiés #Grèce #centres #camps_de_réfugiés #financement #Mer_Egée #îles #centres_fermés #financement #EU #internal_externalization #externalisation_intérieure #Union_européenne #UE
Accord entre l’#Union_européenne et la Grèce pour un nouveau camp d’accueil pour migrants à Lesbos en 2021
Le camp de Moria avait été ravagé par un incendie au mois de septembre 2020. Un campement provisoire, où se trouve 7 300 demandeurs d’asile, a depuis été établi sur l’île.
Presque trois mois après un incendie ravageur, l’Union européenne (UE) et la Grèce ont signé un accord, jeudi 3 décembre, pour la mise en place d’ici septembre 2021 d’un nouveau camp d’accueil pour migrants sur l’île de Lesbos. Ce nouveau camp doit remplacer celui de Moria détruit en septembre.
Le soutien de l’Union européenne dans la gestion de ce nouveau « centre d’accueil » sera inédit, et l’accord prévoit une répartition des responsabilités entre la Commission, les autorités grecques et les agences de l’UE.
Après la destruction du camp insalubre de Moria, le plus grand d’Europe, un campement provisoire a été établi sur l’île. Plus de 7 300 demandeurs d’asile, parmi lesquels des enfants, des personnes handicapées ou malades, s’entassent sous des tentes, sans chauffage ni eau chaude à l’approche de l’hiver.
Dans le nouveau camp, « nous allons fournir des conditions décentes aux migrants et réfugiés qui arrivent, et aussi soutenir les habitants sur les îles grecques », a déclaré la présidente de la Commission européenne, Ursula von der Leyen, dans un communiqué, où elle souligne également la nécessité de « procédures rapides et équitables » pour l’examen des demandes d’asile. Pour les migrants, « les centres doivent n’être qu’un arrêt temporaire avant leur retour (vers leur pays d’origine ou de transit) ou leur intégration », précise Mme von der Leyen.
« Une étape importante »
La Commission prévoit de consacrer environ 130 millions d’euros pour les sites de Lesbos et de Chios, dont la très grosse majorité pour Lesbos. En outre, 121 millions d’euros ont été alloués le mois dernier à la construction de trois camps moins importants sur les îles de Samos, Kos et Leros.
« Cet accord est une étape importante (…) pour s’assurer qu’une situation comme celle de Moria ne puisse plus se reproduire », a ajouté la commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures, Ylva Johansson. Elle a estimé que ce nouveau camp « marquait un changement dans la façon d’appréhender la gestion des migrations, et ouvre la voie à une mise en pratique des principes directeurs du nouveau pacte sur la migration et l’asile ».
La Commission européenne a présenté fin septembre un projet de réforme de la politique commune de l’asile, un dossier ultrasensible sur lequel la recherche d’un compromis est extrêmement difficile, cinq ans après la crise migratoire de 2015.
Lesbos, en mer Egée ainsi que d’autres îles grecques proches des côtes occidentales de la Turquie voisine, est l’une des principales portes d’entrée des migrants en Europe. La Grèce a considérablement réduit le nombre d’arrivées en 2020 mais les conditions de vie dans les camps d’accueil restent particulièrement éprouvantes.
Les Danois veulent loger les demandeurs d’asile déboutés sur une #île_déserte
Sans vouloir faire de Point Godwin, cette métaliste me fait penser aux différents projets envisagés pour relocaliser les #Juifs du monde, dont l’île de #Madagascar (avant bien sûr de finir par « choisir » la Palestine)...
La réaction de certains maires en Allemagne...
"Des villes allemandes proposent d’accueillir des migrants du camp de l’île de Lesbos ravagé par les flammes"
... et en #Autriche :
Le #nouveau_camp de Lesbos, Grèce (septembre_2020) :
Incendie dans le hotspot de Lesbos (septembre 2020)
12.500 demandeurs d’asile fuient les flammes et errent dans la nuit tandis que le feu pourrait réduire le camp entier en cendres, voir les vidéos sur le site d’efsyn :
Πύρινη κόλαση στο ΚΥΤ της Μόριας - Εκκενώθηκε ο καταυλισμός
Στις φλόγες για ακόμα μια φορά ο προσφυγικός καταυλισμός. Επεισόδια μετά την ανακοίνωση των 35 θετικών κρουσμάτων κορονοϊού. Χιλιάδες πρόσφυγες και μετανάστες σε αναζήτηση στέγης.
Μεγάλες φωτιές καίνε από τα μεσάνυχτα όλο τον προσφυγικό καταυλισμό της Μόριας. Χιλιάδες πρόσφυγες και μετανάστες βρίσκονται αυτή την ώρα άστεγοι, κυριολεκτικά μέσα στους δρόμους.
Περίπου 12.500 κόσμος που διέμεναν στη Μόρια εγκατέλειψαν τη δομή και αρχικά κινήθηκαν προς τον οικισμό της Παναγιούδας, ενώ μέρος τους κινήθηκε και προς άλλες κατευθύνσεις. Την ίδια ώρα διμοιρίες ΜΑΤ με κλούβες δημιούργησαν φραγμό στο ύψος του Καρά Τεπέ αποτρέποντας τους από το να μπουν στην πόλη.
Η Πυροσβεστική Υπηρεσία προς ώρας επιβεβαιώνει ότι δεν υπάρχουν αναφορές για θύματα.
Πώς ξεκίνησε η φωτιά
Σύμφωνα με τις πρώτες πληροφορίες, της φωτιάς προηγήθηκαν επεισόδια που ξεκίνησαν γύρω στις έντεκα το βράδυ. Η ένταση προκλήθηκε μετά την ανακοίνωση των 35 θετικών κρουσμάτων κορονοϊού στον καταυλισμό και την άρνηση κάποιων εξ αυτών να μπουν σε καραντίνα.
Γρήγορα οι αρνητές της καραντίνας ήρθαν σε σύγκρουση με άλλους που επεσήμαναν το κίνδυνο για όλο το καμπ ενώ ομάδες προσφύγων προσπάθησαν να διαφύγουν μέσα από το ΚΥΤ φοβούμενοι την μετάδοση του ιού.
Γύρω στις 11.00 έκαναν την εμφάνιση τους οι πρώτες φλόγες περιμετρικά του ΚΥΤ και προς τη πλευρά του Ελαιώνα.
Γρήγορα η φωτιά πέρασε μέσα στο ΚΥΤ και εκεί ομάδα αιτούντων παρεμπόδισε την Πυροσβεστική Υπηρεσία να εισέλθει. Τότε επενέβησαν τα ΜΑΤ που με τη χρήση δακρυγόνων και κρότου-λάμψης διέλυσαν το συγκεντρωμένο πλήθος, αλλά η φωτιά είχε αρχίσει να καίει όλες τις κρίσιμες εγκαταστάσεις όπως τα γραφεία της Ευρωπαϊκής Υπηρεσίας Ασύλου κ.α
Φόβοι εκφράζονται και για την νέα δομή υγείας που δώρισε η Ολλανδική κυβέρνηση μιας και οι φλόγες βγήκαν έξω από το ΚΥΤ και κινήθηκαν προς όλες τις κατευθύνσεις.
Αξίζει να σημειωθεί ότι την ώρα που ξέσπασε η πυρκαγιά, όλες οι πυροσβεστικές δυνάμεις της Λέσβου ήταν σε απόσταση 70 χιλιομέτρων προσπαθώντας να ελέγξουν το διπλό πύρινο μέτωπο που είχε ξεσπάσει νωρίτερα στην Άντισσα και την Βατούσσα αφήνοντας περί τα δέκα οχήματα στο ΚΥΤ που ήταν αδύνατον να ανταπεξέλθουν.
(incendie qui a eu lieu le 9 septembre 2020, je suis en retard sur cet événement, j’essaie de mettre les nouvelles arrivées ensuite, notamment sur la mailing-list Migreurop, dans les prochains jours sur ce fil de discussion)
OFFICIEL : Lesbos est en état d’urgence depuis 4 mois
09/09/2020 12:24:00 Société, Lesbos, Immigrants, Incendie, EKTAKTO
Par arrêté du vice-ministre de la Protection civile et de la gestion des crises, Nikos Hardalia et décision du secrétaire général de la protection civile, Vassilios Papageorgiou, l’unité régionale de Lesbos est déclarée en état d’urgence de la protection civile, pour des raisons de santé publique.
Cette déclaration est valable à partir d’aujourd’hui 09-09-2020 et pendant quatre (4) mois.
Les ministres de l’Intérieur T. Theodorikakos, de l’Immigration et de l’Asile N. Mitarakis et le président d’EODY Pan. Arkoumaneas se rend à Lesbos, afin d’être informé de la situation à Moria, comme l’a déclaré le porte-parole du gouvernement St. Petsas, après la fin de la réunion gouvernementale au Palais Maximos.
Pendant ce temps, des renforts d’Athènes ont été envoyés par la police à Lesbos, afin de faire face au problème qui s’est créé depuis la nuit après les incendies qui se sont déclarés à Moria et ont détruit une très grande partie du KYT. En particulier, trois escouades MAT ont quitté Elefsina à 7 heures du matin sur un avion militaire C-130 et devraient arriver sur l’île à 9 heures.
Comme il est devenu connu du siège de EL.AS. Il y a déjà des forces fortes sur l’île, cependant tous les étrangers qui étaient dans le KYT après les incendies sont concentrés à l’extérieur de la structure, où ils sont gardés et cherchent des solutions pour leur logement.
La lumière du jour montre l’ampleur de la destruction du camp - « ville » de 13 000 réfugiés et migrants à Moria. La totalité de la partie extérieure du KYT a été complètement détruite, tandis qu’une grande partie à l’intérieur du camp KYT qui continue de brûler a également été détruite. Les informations indiquent que les infrastructures d’administration et d’identification n’ont pas été incendiées, mais que le service d’asile et son équipement ont été complètement incendiés. En outre, des dommages ont été causés dans la zone de l’unité de soins intensifs et de l’unité de soins intensifs et dans la climatisation de l’unité de santé qui a été faite grâce à un don du gouvernement néerlandais.
Une grande partie de la population de Moria a fui vers les domaines environnants, tandis qu’une autre partie s’est déplacée vers la ville de Mytilène où à la hauteur de Kara Tepe, juste avant l’usine PPC, une force de police forte a été alignée qui ne leur permet pas d’entrer dans la ville.
L’incendie s’est déclaré vers minuit, lorsque les réfugiés et les migrants qui avaient été testés positifs pour le coronavirus ou avaient été détectés comme cas de contact ont refusé d’être isolés. Des affrontements se sont ensuivis avec d’autres réfugiés et migrants qui les ont poussés hors du camp. Ce conflit a pris à un moment donné un caractère tribal avec le résultat que des incendies ont éclaté, qui bientôt, en raison du vent fort, ont pris des dimensions.
Il est à noter que, comme indiqué, les forces des pompiers, arrivées au camp pour tenter, ont été attaquées par des groupes de demandeurs d’asile qui ont entravé leur travail. En ce moment, les pompiers opèrent dans le camp avec le renforcement des moyens aériens, afin d’éteindre complètement le feu puis de contrôler la zone.
Source : skai.gr
On craint une propagation du coronavirus dans tout Mytilène si les quelque 12000 réfugiés et immigrants ne sont pas expulsés immédiatement et dans une zone éloignée du tissu urbain après l’incendie qui s’est déclaré peu avant minuit mardi à Moria, exprime le maire de Mytilene S.
« Les quelque 12 000 réfugiés ne peuvent pas rester un deuxième jour à ce moment-là. Dix ans nous ont laissés seuls sur la question des réfugiés. Les immigrants doivent être expulsés ici et maintenant. "Sinon, il y aura une propagation du virus dans toute la région", a déclaré le maire de Mytilène, Stratis Kytelis, à ethnos.gr.
12000 réfugiés et migrants restent sur la route nationale
Les réfugiés et les migrants restent sur la route nationale à la hauteur de Panagouda et se trouve à seulement six kilomètres de Mytilène tandis que les forces de police ont créé un barrage pour les empêcher de s’y déplacer. Trois escouades MAT avec une force totale de 60 personnes sont déjà parties du Pirée à Lesbos les forces de l’île. Il est à noter qu’à partir du contrôle des échantillons de liquide pharyngien reçus les trois jours de jeudi, vendredi et samedi par les équipes d’EODY parmi 1900 résidents de l’hôpital de Moria et 100 employés, un total de 35 cas positifs pour le virus ont été trouvés, au total des réfugiés et autres demandeurs d’asile. . Il est à noter qu’en plus des 35 réfugiés en quarantaine, 100 autres personnes étaient entrées en contact avec eux.
Reçu via la mailing-list Migreurop, le 09.09.2020
Construction d’un nouveau camp de réfugiés pour « accueillir » les personnes à la rue suite à l’incendie :
Moria : “Time bomb” exploded, burned down Hotspot & “European values”
It was short before Tuesday midnight when fires broke out in several parts in- and outside the Moria camp. The powerful winds quickly spread the flames around, through containers and tents. Total destruction. 13,000 people on the streets. The island of Lesvos has declared in “state of emergency.” Authorities investigate arson. Alarm for the 35 confirmed coronavirus cases that authorities do not know their whereabouts. No reports of fatalities or injuries.
The worst scenario happened – and while there was a scenario, plans to deal with it equaled to zero.
A large part of the refugees and asylum seekers fled to the surrounding areas, while another part has moved to the city of Mytilene. However, strong police forces have been lined up in the area of Kara Tepe and do not allow them to enter the city.
Others entered the camp in the morning apparently seeking to save some of their belongings.
The entire camp outside the camp including thousands of olive trees have been destroyed, also a large part inside the hotspot.https://i0.wp.com/www.keeptalkinggreece.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/moriafiresept5.jpg?w=600&ssl=1#.jpg
According to information the administration and identification infrastructures were not burned, but the Asylum Service and its equipment were completely burned.https://i2.wp.com/www.keeptalkinggreece.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/moriafiresept.jpg?resize=768%2C576&ssl=1#.jpg
Damaged are also the area of the Intensive Care Unit as wells as the new health Care unit recently donated by the Dutch Government.https://i1.wp.com/www.keeptalkinggreece.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/moriafiresept4.jpg?resize=768%2C576&ssl=1#.jpg
According to local media stonisi, that speaks of “uprising and fire“, clashes erupted in the camp after 35 people were confirmed positive to coronavirus on Tuesday. They, their families and their contacts refused to go in isolation in a warehouse just outside the camp. Others started to leave out of fear to contract the virus.
The clashes “soon led to fires initially around the camp that burned all the tents outside and around the KYT and containers inside,” notes the local news website.
Three squads of riot police have been reportedly deployed from Athens to Moria.
Authorities seek accommodation solutions for the thousands of people.
Residents of overcrowded Moria camp have been in lockdown for several months due to the coronavirus.https://i0.wp.com/www.keeptalkinggreece.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/moriafiresept1.jpg?resize=768%2C432&ssl=1#.jpg https://i1.wp.com/www.keeptalkinggreece.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/moriafiresept3.jpg?resize=768%2C576&ssl=1#.jpg
Chief of Fire Service, Konstantinos Theofilopoulos, told state broadcaster ERT on Wednesday morning, that several fires started around 10:30 at night and that they were initially hindered with thrown stones.
He added that the fire has been largely extinguished except from the containers that are still burning inside.
Citing sources of the National Intelligence Service, ERT reported that initially the tents outside the camp were set on fire.
Quick are the far-right conspiracy theorists who see in the blaze “act of asymmetric warfare” against Greece and blame “Erdogan’s soldiers” for the fire.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakisis currently chair an emergency meeting with the ministers of Citizen Protection, Migration Policy and Asylum and Interior, the chiefs of National Intelligence and the General Staff of Armed Forces, and the head of the Civil Protection.
The vice president of the European Commission and Commissioner for the Promotion of the European way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, expressed the Commission’s intention to assist Greece at all levels.
EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said that she had agreed to fund the immediate transfer and accommodation on the Greek mainland of the 400 unaccompanied migrant children and teenagers.
PS The fire in Moria burned down not only the camp but also the “European values”…
Grèce : un important incendie ravage le camp de Moria, des milliers de personnes à évacuer
Un énorme incendie a ravagé dans la nuit de mardi à mercredi le camp de Moria sur l’île grecque de Lesbos. Le site, qui héberge plus de 12 000 personnes, a été « détruit à 99% » selon les pompiers. La tension est à son comble sur l’île : des migrants ont empêché les pompiers de rentrer dans le camp et des membres de l’extrême droite ont « attaqué » les ONG qui tentaient de venir en aide aux exilés.
Le camp de Moria où s’entassent plus de 12 000 migrants a pris feu dans la nuit du mardi 8 au mercredi 9 septembre. Selon les pompiers, le site a été presque entièrement détruit. « La quasi-totalité du camp est en feu, aussi bien à l’intérieur que les tentes qui se trouvent à l’extérieur dans l’oliveraie », a observé un photographe de l’AFP présent sur place. « Tout brûle », a déclaré sur Twitter une association d’aide aux migrants, Stand by me Lesvos.
Plusieurs heures après le début de l’incendie, une fumée noire continuait à s’élever au dessus du camp. Le président du syndicat des pompiers de Lesbos, Yorgos Ntinos, a indiqué mercredi matin que le camp « a brûlé à 99% et le feu continue ».
Des centaines de demandeurs d’asile fuyaient à pied dans la nuit vers le port de Mytilène mais ont été bloqués par les véhicules des forces de l’ordre, raconte à InfoMigrants Alpha*, un migrant vivant dans un conteneur du camp de Moria. « On n’a pas dormi de la nuit et personne ne nous a donné à manger ou à boire. Il y a beaucoup de femmes et d’enfants », précise-t-il.https://scd.infomigrants.net/media/resize/my_image_big/d8481bec306e3200b3cf3be0ba4fc6e508461699.jpeg
D’autres personnes se sont abritées dans les collines environnant le camp. « Certains témoignages rapportent que des locaux bloquent le passage (des migrants) dans le village voisin », rapporte encore Stand by me Lesvos.
Le site d’information locale Lesvospost explique que plus de 3 000 tentes, des milliers de conteneurs, des bureaux de l’administration et une clinique au sein du camp ont également été brûlés.
Pour l’heure, les pompiers précisent qu’"il n’y a pas de victimes, mais quelques blessés légers avec des problèmes respiratoires dus à la fumée". Des rumeurs annonçaient mercredi matin le décès d’au moins cinq personnes - une information que n’a pas pu vérifier InfoMigrants."Je pense que d’autres morts seront à déplorer car Moria est à terre", souffle Alpha.
État d’urgence déclaré
La tension est à son comble sur l’île. Les pompiers affirment dans leur communiqué avoir « été empêchés d’entrer dans le camp pour intervenir » par certains groupes de réfugiés, et avoir fait appel aux forces de l’ordre pour pouvoir poursuivre l’opération de secours. Plusieurs associations racontent avoir été « attaquées » par des membres de l’extrême droite alors qu’elles tentaient de venir en aide aux migrants.
« L’île de Lesbos est déclarée en état d’urgence » a affirmé sur la chaîne de télévision publique ERT, le porte-parole du gouvernement grec, Stelios Petsas. Une réunion gouvernementale, avec le Premier ministre et le chef de l’état-major, doit se tenir mercredi matin « pour examiner la situation à Moria et les mesures qui vont être prises ».
D’après l’agence de presse grecque ANA, les feux auraient été déclenchés à la suite de la révolte de certains demandeurs d’asile qui devaient être placés en isolement, ayant été testés positifs au coronavirus ou proches d’une personne détectée positive. « Il y a 35 cas positifs et ils doivent être isolés (...) pour empêcher la propagation » du virus, a déclaré Selios Petsas à la chaîne publique TV ERT. Tous les réfugiés du camp ont l’interdiction de quitter l’île, a-t-il ajouté.
Selon Alpha, « des Afghans ont refusé que des agents procèdent à des tests de coronavirus ». La situation a rapidement dégénéré et « les forces de l’ordre ont lancé des gaz lacrymogènes ». « J’étais dans mon conteneur quand j’ai entendu du bruit à l’extérieur. Je n’ai pas voulu sortir. Mais des flammes ont commencé à entrer dans mon habitation alors je me suis enfui en courant. Le feu était juste à côté de moi, j’ai eu très peur », continue le jeune homme.https://scd.infomigrants.net/media/resize/my_image_big/5ee1d03bc3e6b4c9e59dee2ed39bfefd76f423ca.jpeg
« La zone paie le prix de l’indifférence et de l’abandon », estime sur Facebook Facebook l’association des habitants de Moria et des autres villages environnants qui appelle les autorités à agir rapidement pour trouver une solution pour les demandeurs d’asile qui se retrouvent sans abri.
La semaine dernière, les autorités ont détecté un premier cas de coronavirus à Moria et ont mis le camp en quarantaine pour quinze jours. Après la réalisation de 2 000 tests de dépistage, 35 personnes ont été détectées positives au Covid-19 à Moria et mises à l’isolement.
De strictes mesures de circulation ont été imposées dans les camps de migrants depuis la mi-mars. Le gouvernement n’a jamais levé ces restrictions malgré les critiques des ONG de droits de l’homme jugeant ces mesures « discriminatoires » alors que la décision a été prise de déconfiner le pays début mai. « Depuis des mois, on est bloqués à l’intérieur du camp, on ne peut pas en sortir. Cela fait un moment que la tension est palpable, les gens ont en marre d’être privés de leur liberté », dit encore Alpha.
*Le prénom a été modifié
Après l’incendie de Moria, la Commissaire appelle les autorités grecques à venir en aide à tous les sinistrés
« Dans la nuit de mardi à mercredi, le feu a détruit en grande partie le centre d’enregistrement et d’identification de Moria et les campements informels qui l’entourent, sur l’île grecque de Lesbos. Cet incendie a considérablement dégradé les conditions de vie des plus de 12 000 demandeurs d’asile et migrants, dont plus de 4 000 enfants, qui sont retenus dans un centre d’une capacité inférieure à 2 800 places », a déclaré la Commissaire.
« L’intervention rapide des autorités locales et des pompiers a permis d’éviter une tragédie. Toutefois, la situation reste tendue, en ce qui concerne à la fois les migrants et la population locale qui vit à proximité du camp.
J’appelle les autorités grecques à fournir d’urgence un hébergement à toutes les personnes privées d’#abri à la suite de l’incendie, en veillant à ce qu’elles aient accès à des soins, à des installations sanitaires, à un soutien psychologique et à de la nourriture. Il faudrait accorder une attention particulière aux personnes contaminées par le coronavirus et leur dispenser les soins nécessaires.
Il importe également que les autorités grecques de tous niveaux protègent les demandeurs d’asile et les migrants contre les agressions et s’abstiennent de tenir des propos qui pourraient attiser les tensions.
La situation sur les autres îles grecques où sont hébergés des réfugiés, des demandeurs d’asile et des migrants n’est guère différente de celle qui prévaut à Lesbos ; sur ces autres îles aussi, les difficultés pourraient s’aggraver. Comme beaucoup, je ne cesse de répéter qu’une aggravation de la situation semble inévitable si la Grèce et les autres États membres du Conseil de l’Europe ne changent pas de stratégie. Certes, la priorité est actuellement de répondre aux besoins humanitaires des sinistrés, mais l’incendie de Moria montre l’urgence de repenser entièrement la stratégie appliquée ces dernières années, qui a conduit à la création de camps surpeuplés, caractérisés par des conditions de vie inhumaines et intenables, à Moria et sur d’autres îles de la mer Égée. Il n’est tout simplement pas possible d’héberger les demandeurs d’asile et les migrants sur des bateaux, ou de recourir à d’autres formes d’hébergement d’urgence, en attendant que le camp de Moria soit remis en état, puis de continuer comme avant.
Les autorités grecques n’ont toujours pas réglé une série de problèmes majeurs, comme le cantonnement des demandeurs d’asile et des migrants sur les îles de la mer Égée, le manque de structures d’accueil, sur les îles et sur le continent, et les insuffisances des politiques d’intégration et d’asile. La situation catastrophique dénoncée depuis des années par de nombreuses instances nationales et internationales est cependant aussi imputable à l’attitude des autres États membres, qui n’aident guère la Grèce en matière de relocalisation, et plus largement au manque de solidarité européenne. Ce n’est pas seulement un problème grec, c’est aussi un problème européen.
Il n’y a plus de temps à perdre. La Grèce a besoin d’une aide concrète et de grande ampleur de la part des autres États membres du Conseil de l’Europe. Si de nombreuses collectivités locales se sont déclarées prêtes à apporter leur contribution, les autorités nationales, en revanche, se montrent trop frileuses. Je me réjouis que certains États membres semblent vouloir intensifier leurs efforts de relocalisation, mais il est urgent qu’ils agissent et que d’autres gouvernements européens suivent cette voie.
La Grèce et ses partenaires doivent enfin se décider à régler les problèmes structurels d’une politique migratoire qui a déjà causé tant de souffrances inutiles. Attendre encore, c’est prendre le risque que d’autres drames se produisent. »
’Catastrophe’ warning as thousands left homeless by Lesbos refugee camp fire
NGOs accuse police of blocking access to hospital for families and vulnerable migrants injured in Moria blaze.
NGOs in Lesbos have warned that a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding on the roads around the still burning Moria camp, where thousands of migrants are allegedly being held by police without shelter or adequate medical help.
Annie Petros, head coordinator of of the charity Becky’s Bathhouse, said she was blocked by police from taking injured people to hospital as she drove them away from the fire.
“When we saw there was a fire we drove as fast as we could with water to the camp, intending to take sick people to hospital. I can’t describe properly the scene we saw. There were streams of people, thousands of them, walking away from the camp. They were totally silent, terrified and traumatised, walking through thick smoke and the awful smell of burning plastic,” she said.
“We picked up some pregnant women who needed urgent help and a teenage boy with a broken leg. When we neared the town of Mytilene there were riot police blocking the way to stop anyone reaching the town. I begged the police but their commander wouldn’t let us through. We called an ambulance and it refused to come to the roadblock.”
Petros said she was sent along back roads, that brought them into contact with a group of anti-migrant protesters.
She learned later that some people were attacked.
She said the people she took to the hospital were the only ones who managed to make it through. “There are many people who need help with burns, with smoke inhalation.”
Other aid organisations in the area said urgent work was needed to get people shelter before night fell.
Omar Alshakal, a former refugee and founder of Refugees4Refugees, said: “The situation is out of control. We were looking after minors here and the safe place for them was lost in the fire. We lost 30 children. We are looking for them now.”
Alshakal said the Greek government was making some effort, but the situation was severe. “We now have 12,000 people with no shelter, homeless on the main road. I have been called just now by the army, they want to get food to people and masks, sanitisation.”
He said he was concerned that the isolation unit for Covid-19 patients was now abandoned. “We had 19 positive cases all in isolation, now they have left the camp. We have the fear they will spread the virus further.”
The cause of the fire is unclear. Alshakal believes it was started by refugees in protest at conditions.
The overcrowded camp is known to be a dangerous space, with small fires being lit to cook and no safe distancing between ramshackle tarpaulins used as tents.
Moira was opened at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015. It was originally intended to hold 3,000 people. The charity MSF has been pushing the Greek authorities to improve conditions at the camp for years.
Amir, a 19-year-old migrant from Afghanistan who teaches English in the School of Peace in the camp, said: “At about 11 last night I saw people starting fires deliberately. It was refugees who were very, very angry about the situation in this camp. We have been a long time in quarantine, you know we are under a lockdown while there are no such rules or laws for Greek people. It is racist, they are treating people like we are animals. We have needs, but we can’t leave this camp to get medicine or food.”
He added: “The situation will now be worse for refugees. Our school is completely burned down. We had started to have hope that we could continue our learning but all that is gone now.”
Aid groups are meeting on Wednesday evening to discuss an urgent response. They want people moved from the roadside immediately.
Philippa Kempson of the Hope Project, said a government-ordered 3.5-mile (6km) cordon around the camp meant she couldn’t get to her supplies.
“We have a building full of aid, nappies, water, very near Moria,” she said. “People can’t reach the city, they are out on an exposed road in 32C with children and babies. These people left the camp with what they had. We are 10km away and I had an asthma attack this morning due to the toxic smoke. Everything in there is plastic: the tents, the temporary housing blocks. And fires are still breaking out, the fire helicopter is still overhead.”
She said the only light in the dark situation was that in two months the camp was due to be completely locked down. “Can you imagine if the fire had started in a couple of months when they had fenced it in with razor wire as they were planning to do? You would have had 12,000 people trapped in an inferno.”
The UNHCR is working with the authorities to move people to safety. The agency said the authorities have blocked the road to stop uncontrolled movement but that vulnerable groups were being prioritised for shelter across the island and in accommodation in Mytilene, the island’s capital.
Ylva Johansson, EU commissioner for home affairs, tweeted she had “agreed to finance the immediate transfer and accommodation on the mainland of the remaining 400 unaccompanied children and teenagers. The safety and shelter of all people in Moria is the priority.”
The police have been approached for comment.
FIRE DESTROYS MUCH OF MORIA CAMP, FOLLOWING FOUR YEARS’ EUROPEAN TOLERANCE OF FATAL RISKS TO MIGRANTS
In the early hours of this morning, a large fire broke out in Moria Refugee Camp, which has left much of the camp destroyed, and many of the approximately 13, 000 residents displaced.
This comes a week after the first person tested positive for COVID-19 in the camp, which was immediately followed by the government’s official initiation of works to transform Moria refugee camp to a closed controlled centre. In the days that followed, at least 30 other people have tested positive for COVID-19 – in a camp that is currently at four times’ its stated capacity, where basic preventative measures are a practical impossibility and where there was no functioning COVID-19 isolation clinic.
The dehumanisation of migrants at the European border and apparent indifference to the impact of this protracted, unsustainable situation on the local population have had repeatedly devastating consequences. Migrants have been consistently confined to overcrowded, insecure and fundamentally inhuman conditions, where fires – often fatal – are a regular occurrence. This was not the first fire in Moria camp; it was not even the first fire in the camp this year. Such fatal risks to – and loss of – migrant lives are instead tolerated as part of the European border regime.
Following the near destruction of Moria Camp, this morning the Greek government placed the island of Lesvos under a four month state of emergency. The police and army have been on the streets around Moria camp since the fire broke out, and three riot police squads (known as the Units for the Reinstatement of Order) were flown in from Athens this morning. As far as we know, no additional medical capacity or humanitarian aid has been mobilised or provided. The government’s immediate dispatch of security forces, before or without humanitarian assistance, continues their policy of framing migrants as a question of public order – and prioritising their securitisation as opposed to the provision of urgent assistance.
The Greek authorities’ main priority so far seems to be the prevention of migrants’ access to Mytiline: a police blockade was established next to Kara Tepe camp in the early hours of this morning, to prevent migrants who had fled the fire from reaching the city, and it remains there to this point. Police units have also blocked the main access road to Moria camp. People who had been living in the camp are spread out on the roads around Moria camp, in the surrounding forests, and in the car park of a nearby supermarket. From what migrants have told us, there have been no state provisions – whether of essentials such as food or water, or other necessities such as hygiene facilities – in those locations.
There has never been an evacuation plan for Moria Camp residents, and when the fire broke out last night, people were left to flee on their own – including those who had been held in the pre-removal detention centre inside Moria Camp (PRO.KE.KA.). Some of those living in the sections for vulnerable people (including unaccompanied children and single women) were woken up by police, but given no instruction of where they could or should go. At present, there remains a profound lack of information regarding the safeguarding or protection response for such groups. When we spoke with vulnerable individuals supported by Legal Centre Lesvos in the early hours of this morning, they were scattered in the forests and roads surrounding the camp, without any state support.
There is still no official confirmation of casualties, or even hospitalisations.
Those who have returned to Moria camp this morning have sent photos of the destroyed camp, including the remains of their tents and shelters. Residents have emphasised that the many of the facilities – including toilets and sanitation spaces – have been burnt. The already-inadequate provisions to prevent or slow the spread of COVID-19 among the camp’s population have now been destroyed, and given that over thirty residents of the camp have tested positive for the virus in recent days, a failure to implement a rapid and health-oriented response for displaced residents will no doubt increase the number of cases – and will likely overwhelm the stretched public healthcare system.
“This fire is a visceral manifestation of European policies, which have for years tolerated the containment of migrants in dangerous, overcrowded and insecure conditions,” said Amelia Cooper, of the Legal Centre Lesvos. “Repeated fatal incidents – including the death of a seven-year-old child in a fire in Moria camp, just six months ago – have not been enough to prompt the evacuation of Moria refugee camp; neither has been the outbreak of a global pandemic, nor the detection of positive cases, nor the Greek government’s instrumentalisation of these facts to impose mass detention on camp residents. Residents of Moria camp, and migrants in hotspots across Europe, are in situations of manufactured and state-sanctioned vulnerability. This fire was not an accident, it was an inevitability.”
Joint statement of 31 NGOs regarding the fire at the Registration and Identification Centre at Moria
Greece: Transfer Refugees and Asylum seekers to Safety on Mainland
Respect for Human Rights should Prevail over Use of Force
Following yesterday’s fire in Moria, on Lesvos, which destroyed the Reception and Identification Centre, 31 civil society organizations call on the Greek Government to immediately provide assistance to people who lost their shelter. Those affected, among them many children and at-risk groups, must be carefully transferred to safety on the mainland.
The transfer of at-risk groups, including unaccompanied children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, people with medical and mental health conditions, and older people should be prioritized. People who tested positive for Covid-19 should be given safe housing for the quarantine period, healthcare, and hospitalization if necessary.
Moving people from Lesvos to mainland Greece requires finding urgent solutions to address the fact that many current housing facilities for refugees and asylum seekers are at full capacity. We urge the Greek authorities to work on a coherent plan that maximises all available resources including those from the EU and we renew our call to European leaders to share the responsibility for the reception and support of asylum seekers now more than ever.
In these difficult times, it is of outmost importance that respect for human rights is at the centre of the response to the fire at Moria, and that authorities do not resort to use of force or inflammatory language, but take appropriate steps to de-escalate any risk of violence.
Boat Refugee Foundation
Equal Rights Beyond Borders
Fenix - Humanitarian Legal Aid
Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)
Hellenic League for Human Rights
Hellenic Platform for Development (Ελληνική Πλατφόρμα για την Ανάπτυξη)
Humanitarian Legal Aid
Human Rights Watch
International Rescue Committee (IRC)
Legal Centre Lesvos
Médecins Sans Frontières
Network for Children’s Rights
Refugee Legal Support (RLS)
Refugee Rights Europe (RRE)
Refugee Support Aegean (RSA)
Refugee Trauma Initiative
Symbiosis-School of Political Studies in Greece
Terre des hommes Hellas
The HOME Project
New fire breaks out in Moria camp on Wed evening
A new large fire broke out at the Reception and Identification Center in Moria early Wednesday evening, just hours after the overcrowded hotspot on the island of Lesvos was largely destroyed by the fire the previous night.
The fire is reportedly burning in the area of Eleonas, the olive grove, outside the camp, where thousands of people of who do fit in live in tents.
Media report that the fire started in some of the 200 tents that were not burned down on Tuesday night. Explosion sounds were heard, and they probably came form the cooking devices the refugees used.
Hundreds of people among them many families with children, were leaving the area.
Firefighters have rushed to the scene but the blaze went out of control due to the strong winds.
STAR TV reported from the spot that the firefighters are now trying to protect the nearby forest.https://i0.wp.com/www.keeptalkinggreece.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/moriafirewed3.jpg?resize=768%2C432&ssl=1#.jpg
Thousands left the camp that hosted 12,800 people.
It remains unclear whether it is a new fire or a resurgence of the one that already destroyed much of the Moria hotspot the other night.
All people in Moria camp must be evacuated to safety in wake of destructive fire
Nearly 12,000 men, women and children have been forced to evacuate Moria refugee camp, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, after a fire tore through the camp during the night of 8 September. While the fire is not believed to have caused any deaths, the camp was almost completely burned down, and people are now on the streets, with nowhere to stay. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) urges Greek and EU authorities to immediately evacuate people off the island to safety.
“Our teams saw the fire spread across Moria and rage all night long. The whole place was engulfed in flames, we saw an exodus of people from a burning hell with no direction,” says Marco Sandrone, MSF field coordinator in Lesbos. “Children were scared, and parents are in shock. We are relieved that there seem to be no victims and we are working now to address the immediate needs of the people.”
All medical services available for the refugees and asylum seekers have been interrupted, including services at the MSF paediatric clinic.
Almost five years of trapping people in dire conditions has led to tensions and despair. This has only increased over the last five months due to restricted movements in the camp, hastily justified as a public health measure amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the recent confirmation of positive cases of COVID-19 among the camp’s residents, the increasing restrictions on people have made the situation unbearable.
MSF has been pushing the Greek health and migration authorities to set up an adequate COVID-19 response plan for Moria, that counts on people’s collaboration and which offers dignity to the sick and to those who are infectious.
“The Greek authorities have failed to put such a response in place, and the EU and other EU member states have disclaimed responsibility and have done close to nothing to resolve this situation,” says Aurelie Ponthieu, MSF Humanitarian Advisor on Displacement. “The years-long orchestration of human suffering and violence produced by European and Greek migration policies are to blame for the fire, and we can only hope that the same system of inhumane containment will not be reborn from the ashes in Moria.”
MSF calls on the Greek authorities to immediately adopt an emergency response plan and to evacuate all these people to a safe place on the mainland or to other European countries. We are ready to provide the support that is needed during the emergency response.
Incendie à Moria - Evacuer MAINTENANT !
Incendie à Moria - Evacuer MAINTENANT !
La nuit dernière, un incendie a détruit le camp de réfugié.e.s surpeuplé de Moria. Près de 13 000 personnes vivaient dans le camp dont la capacité officielle n’est que de 2 757 personnes. Suite à ces incendies, aucune évacuation n’a été organisée. Par ailleurs, il n’y a jamais eu de plan d’évacuation pour l’ensemble du camp malgré les dangers et les conditions inhumaines. Au printemps 2020, l’Europe et la Suisse n’ont pas réussi à réaliser l’évacuation des camps et la redistribution des personnes entre les différents États européens, alors que la situation l’exigeait et malgré les mobilisations.
Le 2 septembre, une première personne a été testée positive au Covid-19 à Moria. Au lieu d’identifier de manière systématique les possibilités d’infection, le camp entier a été mis en quarantaine. Toutes les personnes ont donc été fortement exposées au risque d’infection. La seule réponse a été leur enfermement aux frontières de l’Europe.
Le 23 juin 2020, plus de 50 000 personnes ont demandé au Conseil fédéral de participer à des opérations d’accueil humanitaire pour évacuer les camps des îles grecques. Le 16 juin 2020, le Conseil national a approuvé la motion visant à accepter des réfugiés de Grèce et les huit plus grandes villes de Suisse ont accepté d’accueillir des réfugié.e.s directement de Grèce. Nous demandons une nouvelle fois au Conseil fédéral, à Karin Keller-Sutter en tant que cheffe du département du DFJP et au SEM d’accueillir les réfugié.e.s de Grèce et de fournir une aide d’urgence immédiate sur le terrain.
Thousands Moria refugees on the streets, locals set blockades, new fires
The situation on the island of Lesvos remain tense on Thursday, with thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers to have spent the night on roadsides, fields and even cemeteries, waiting for aid and a provisional shelter. Led by the Mayor of Mytilene, locals have set blockades to hinder the government from repairing fire damages in the Moria camp or embark the vulnerable among the homeless on a ferry.https://i2.wp.com/www.keeptalkinggreece.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/cemeteries.jpg?resize=768%2C570&ssl=1#.jpg
“People that lost their shelters in #MoriaCamp due to the fires are finding shade and temporary resting ground between graves in a Greek orthodox cemetery.” via @daphnetolis.
At the same time, new fires broke out in the camp also early Thursday afternoon to burn down what was not damage din the last two days.
While signs hind to an “arson plan,” so far, no perpetrators have been captured, no report by the Fire Service has been issued.
The government desperate tries to find solutions to the crisis that has emerged on the island but it is extremely difficult without the support by the local authorities and the people.
Refugees and locals seem to agree on one point: This is “hell on earth” for both sides.
The island has been declared a state of emergency for four months.
New fires show “arson plan”
Fires broke out again inside the camp early Thursday afternoon. According to state news agency amna, the fire broke οut simultaneously in three different points of the hotspot.
The fires broke in a camp section that was not damaged by the fires on Tuesday and Wednesday, and where refugees were still living.https://i1.wp.com/www.keeptalkinggreece.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/moriasept10.jpg?resize=768%2C512&ssl=1#.jpg
The latest fire shows that despite the fact that the government has deployed several squads of police there, there is not policing in the area, which is an arson crime scene, after all, as the government says.
According to local media stonisi, “the new fires today now prove the existence of an organized arson plan by unknown centers and for reasons currently unknown. A plan that the Police seems to not be able to deal with.”
Refugees for a second time
Over 12,000 people spend the second night on the streets, slept next to garbage bins and police buses. Some found no other place to spend the night other than between graves of a cemetery.https://i1.wp.com/www.keeptalkinggreece.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/refugeesmoria3.jpg?resize=768%2C431&ssl=1#.jpg https://i1.wp.com/www.keeptalkinggreece.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/refugeesmoria4.jpg?resize=768%2C430&ssl=1#.jpg
Helpless without shelter and food, after the fire damage, they grabbed their children, helped their elderly, packed whatever they could save and left again for the Unknown and a new nightmare.https://i1.wp.com/www.keeptalkinggreece.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/refugeesmoria2.jpg?w=640&ssl=1#.jpg
Tear gas against children
Riot police does not allow the refugees to reach the island capital Mytiline and set blockades at the road to Kara Tepe, where another camp operates.
In the early morning hours of Thursday, the crowd threw stones at the police forces that responded with tear gas.
Among the tear gas target are also children that scream in fear.
Locals set up blockades
At the same time, residents and members of local authorities are opposing the government’s attempt to repair the damage in the camp and make it available again for the refugees and asylum seekers.https://i0.wp.com/www.keeptalkinggreece.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/lesvosblockages2.jpg?resize=762%2C1024&ssl=1#.jpg
Local authorities of East Lesvos had repeatedly called for de-congestion of the camp. They belive that the new situation that emerged after the fire will have them relocate to the mainland.
They reject any government proposals to have the refugees accommodated in two military camps or in the area surrounding the Moria camp.https://i2.wp.com/www.keeptalkinggreece.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/lesvosblockages1.jpg?resize=768%2C1024&ssl=1#.jpg
Trucks and other machinery deployed by the municipality hinders the cleaning of Moria by the Armed forces, while the mayor reportedly keeps calling on locals to strengthen the blockades.https://i1.wp.com/www.keeptalkinggreece.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/lesvosblockages.jpg?resize=768%2C1024&ssl=1#.jpg
Mayor of Mytilene, Stratis Kytelis has been reiterating that he does not accept the reopening of Moria, the establishment creation of any other accommodation structure, even a temporary one.
He demands “the immediate refugees’ and migrants’ departure from the island in any way.”
“We have been insisting for a long time that there should be an immediate and massive de-congestion of the camp. It is not possible for a structure designed for 2,800 people to accommodate 12,000 people,” he repeated.
406 minors relocated to northern Greecehttps://i1.wp.com/www.keeptalkinggreece.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/refugeesmoria1.png?w=720&ssl=1#.jpg
With three separate flights, 406 unaccompanied refugee children were transferred from the destroyed Moria center to Thessaloniki over night.
The children are temporary accommodated in hotels. Some of them will be transferred to other structures and some will be relocated to European countries in accordance with the relevant program.
Before their departure form Lesvos, all minors were tested for Covid-19. For precautionary reasons, they ill stay in quarantine for 10 days. facilities in which they will be housed will be quarantined for 10 days.
The flights were organized by the International Organization for Migration, funded by the European Commission and coordinated by the Special Secretariat for Unaccompanied Minors at the Ministry of Migration.
Gov’t housing plan about to failhttps://i2.wp.com/www.keeptalkinggreece.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/moriaferry.jpg?resize=768%2C512&ssl=1#.jpg
The ferry donated by the shipping company Blue Star Ferries for the accommodation of some 1,000 vulnerable groups docked at the port of Sigri and not at the port of Mytilene on Thursday morning. Immediately locals called for a blockade of the road.
The two Navy landing ships for the temporary accommodation of another 1,000 vulnerable people may never come. The Defense ministry has allegedly refused to deploy them amid a Greek standoff with Turkey.
The government is in an extreme difficult situation and is looking for other solutions.
The Migration Ministry said in a statement on Thursday that “all the necessary actions for the immediate housing of vulnerable people and families of the Moria hotspot in specially designed areas will be carried out within the day.”, a migration and asylum ministry announcement said on Thursday.
“The primary concern of the government is the safety of all concerned,” the announcement added, and concluded that “Behavior aiming to blackmail will not be tolerated.”
Incendies à Lesbos : « Nous créons une zone de guerre au milieu de l’Europe »
#Efi_Latsoudi s’insurge contre le gouvernement grec, la situation dans le camp de Moria étant prévisible selon elle. L’humanitaire appelle à une réaction de la communauté internationale.
Le camp de Moria, à Lesbos, a été en grande partie détruit par un incendie dans la nuit de mardi à mercredi. Efi Latsoudi, figure de proue de l’aide humanitaire sur l’île et lauréate du prix humanitaire Nansen Refugee Award 2016 du Haut-Commissariat des Nations unies pour les réfugiés (HCR), craint que la situation des 13 000 candidats à l’asile qui y vivaient se dégrade.
L’incendie qui ravage Moria était-il prévisible ?
Il fallait s’y attendre. Politiquement, on se dirigeait vers ça. On opérait sans plan d’action depuis des mois. Le gouvernement grec présente la situation migratoire dans les camps comme une réussite depuis que les chiffres d’arrivées sur les îles sont en baisse. Mais les conditions de vie des migrants sont toujours aussi désastreuses. Elles ne sont que les conséquences des politiques mises en place par Athènes.
Vous êtes actuellement à Lesbos. Que s’est-il passé hier soir ?
C’était la guerre. Il y a eu des manifestations de migrants dans le camp en réaction au confinement total, la police a usé de gaz lacrymogène. On s’attendait à de tels mouvements de contestation : voilà six mois que les forces de l’ordre ont enfermé ces gens dans ce camp. C’est de la discrimination ! Pour essayer de protéger les mineurs face aux manifestations, ils ont été placés dans une partie isolée du camp. Et quand le feu s’est déclaré [les causes de l’incendie ne sont pas encore clairement connues, ndlr], personne n’arrivait à les sortir de là. La porte a dû être défoncée pour les évacuer.
Comment se présente la situation au lendemain du drame ?
Les migrants sont encerclés par les policiers sur la route qui va de Moria à la ville. Ils sont dehors, sans rien. Les autorités sont en train d’acheminer trois troupes de policiers antiémeutes d’Athènes en bateau. Le ministre a parlé des émeutes, on craint que ces événements le poussent à créer des camps totalement fermés. Il y a aussi beaucoup de réactions de la part des groupes fascistes, qui pensent que Moria est une « bombe sanitaire » [35 cas de Covid-19 ont officiellement été déclarés à Moria, ndlr] alors qu’il y a plus de contaminations au sein de la population locale que chez les migrants. Certains médias enveniment la situation. Nous sommes en train de créer une zone de guerre au milieu de l’Europe.
Comment imaginez-vous les prochains jours ?
Tout le monde va envoyer de l’argent et des ressources sans aucune organisation. La situation ne va pas s’améliorer et tout cela ira alimenter la rhétorique des fascistes. Nous ferons au mieux pour aider les migrants. S’il n’y a pas de réaction de la part de la communauté internationale, la population locale et les groupes xénophobes vont nous tomber dessus.
A lire aussiLesbos, le confinement sans fin
Le gouvernement ne considère à aucun instant que la situation puisse être le résultat de sa politique. Il a pointé du doigt les ONG internationales : c’est hypocrite. Toute l’organisation des camps comme celui de Moria ne tient que grâce aux humanitaires. Les vrais victimes de ces drames à répétition, ce sont les migrants psychologiquement traumatisés et qui ne se sentent plus humains.
Four face criminal charges over Moria blaze, two minors to return to Lesvos
Four Afghan migrants linked to the catastrophic fires that razed the Moria reception center on Lesvos last week were charged on Wednesday with arson and membership of a criminal organization and given until Saturday to prepare their defense before an investigating magistrate.
Another two Afghans implicated in the same incident, both unaccompanied minors who were transferred to the mainland the day after the first blaze, are to return to Lesvos where they are to face a magistrate on Monday.
The six suspects were identified on video footage of the fires that circulated on social media.
Meanwhile most of the 13 suspects detained in connection with a fire that broke out late on Tuesday near a migrant reception center on Samos have been released due to a lack of evidence linking them to the blaze, which was extinguished before it could affect the camp.
On Wednesday, 20 officers who are to form part of a special police service on Lesvos for a temporary camp that has been set up there arrived on the island. Although the new camp has the capacity to host up to 8,000 people, only around 1,200 had moved in by Wednesday night.
Thousands of former Moria residents continued to sleep on the streets and in olive groves on Wednesday.
Communique from the Working Group mobilisation on 45th Session of the PPT
MORIA burns, again. This documented horror in the heart of Europe, has been denounced from its beginning (2015) by dozens of reports from human rights, humanitarian and other non-governmental organisations. Almost 20,000 (at peak last February) and at the time of the fire, 13,000 human beings were parked in a prison of mud, rubbish and violence, behind barbed wire. MORIA is a planned limbo, where refugees are being denied their right to asylum, freedom and dignity, unable to perform even the most basic daily activities, such as sleeping, eating or communicating. It was a place where health care and education were denied to 4,000 children – left without dreams; adolescents whom the abnormal rates of suicide attempts should have been an alert of the level of despair in the camp (MSF); women terrorized by daily rapes, lack of hygiene and rampant violence. Hundreds of testimonies revealing the levels of unbearable “non-life” in MORIA, were kept unheard for years.
Now the fenced camp, which was about to be closed, has burned to the ground. But how could this construction – the abandonment of human beings reduced to “numbers and bodies” – re-emerge as an island-lager in the heart of 20th Century Europe? How has this apartheid andsuffering as planned management of the “other”, of the “migrant” been accepted and tolerated in the long silence of 5 years? This inhumane “containment” had been erected as a model for migration policies by the European Commission and the EU Member States. MORIA has been the essence of the deterrence model aimed at discouraging the flight of potential asylum seekers from countries at war and to push them back to the ruins, sealed by the EU-Turkey agreement in 2016. It is documented that on Greek islands, the Geneva Convention was being constantly violated on a daily basis. Has it been buried in Lesbos?
The most disturbing reality of all is that MORIA is not exceptional – but part of a chain of Camps and Hotspots across Europe constructed as sites “without rights” and a systematic planned annihilation of the “other”, psychically destroyed in camps, where they could have even burned alive. The EU borders, as well as the maritime routes have also become sites of death where thousands have drowned. This situation is indicative of the overall policy of necropolitics practiced by the European Union and its member states towards migrant and refugee peoples and is combined with the policy of militarised externalisation of borders. And inside the Fortress Europe – as is graphically shown in this time of COVID-19 – the migrant workers who make up a big part of the “essential workers’ in agriculture, care and domestic work – are also denied fundamental rights, subjected to daily racism and deprived of the conditions to live a decent human life.
As part of that Europe that still recognizes itself first of all as “human”, and joining all the movements that in these hours are making their voice heard, we, the signatories, who have been witnessing for years the tragic fate of the migrant and refugee peoples, denounce even more the fire of MORIA as a symbolic and highly visible expression of the silent, permanent, planned crime against humanity for which the European Commission the European States are responsible, as highlighted by the Permanent People’s Tribunal sentence (Hearings 2017-2019). The humanitarian interventions of these hours – already minimal in itself – can only appear as a saving face operation. Once again these pronouncements refer to a time without deadlines, and therefore confirm the existing genocidal policy – as the European Commission, and the EU governments, opt for an identity that declares itself exempt from the obligations of the civilization of law. These obligations were meant to be consistent with the ‘never again’ commitment against the extermination camps and had made Europe a place of welcome and an indicator of its own development project.
We therefore call on the EC and all the European States:
To urgently evacuate the island and re-locate to safety and dignity the MORIA migrant and refugee peoples.
To end the criminalisation of migrants and refugees and the criminalisation of solidarity.
It is Not a Crime to Migrate or to seek Asylum! It is a Human Right!
September 14, 2020
The movements & oganisations convening the 45th PPT Migrant & Refugee Session
Questions arise as Greece vows to “empty Lesvos of all refugees by Easter”
Questions arise as Greece’s Citizens Protection Minister has vowed to empty the island of Lesvos of all refugees by Easter.One main question is, of course, that if all 12,000 refugees leave in the next 6 months, why does Greece build a permanent camp on the island, expected to be in operation until 2025 and it looks as if it is going to be “the largest in Greece” if not in the whole European Union? Where will these 12,000 people stay when they leave Lesvos? How about the refugees and asylum-seekers in overcrowded camps on other islands? At the same time, it looks as if the hastily set up temporary camp in Kara Tepe, hastily due to the Moria fires, is violating rules of constructions and other issues.
In an exclusive interview with UK’s daily The Guardian, Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said following the fires that destroyed the overcrowded Moria camp last week, that plans would be accelerated to decongest the outpost.
Minister: Lesvos will be empty of all refugees by Easter”
“They will all leave,” Citizens protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis told UK’s daily the Guardian on Tuesday. “Of the roughly 12,000 refugees here currently, I foresee 6,000 being transferred to the mainland by Christmas and the rest by Easter. The people of this island have gone through a lot. They’ve been very patient.”
About 70% of asylum seekers on the island were Afghans who would be awarded refugee status and given travel papers, he said. Recognised refugees can move to another EU member state for up to three months using the documents.
Chrysochoidis, who flew into Lesbos to help oversee relief efforts, welcomed reports that Germany was prepared to take in as many as 1,500 people from Moria.
“It’s very generous, very brave,” Chrysochoidis said of the goodwill gesture. “All over Europe, countries have their own internal political problems around this issue but I also think they [EU states] can see we are protecting the bloc’s borders, we have greatly minimised flows.”
On the problem that stranded refugees and asylum-seekers refuse to settle in the new temporary tents camp in Kara Tepe, Chrysochoidis blamed Afghan asylum-seekers and even some NGOs.
“There are groups of Afghans and I am afraid even some human rights organisations who are encouraging thousands of people not to go in,” said Chrysochoidis.
“It’s non-negotiable. They will leave the island but they have to go through this new facility and get the requisite legal documents first,” the minister stressed speaking to the Guardian.
If refugees go, why a permanent refugee camp?
Of course, in order to have 6,000 refugees relocated to the mainland by Christmas, that is in 3 months, you have to have structures to host them. Where are they? Where are the government plans for them? And where will the remaining 6,000 people go “by Easter”? Most likely, they will also found themselves on the mainland – because so far, the famous “EU solidarity” was never strong enough to take some burden from Greece’s shoulders – and neither will it be, I’m afraid.
And how about the refugees and asylum-seekers in the overcrowded camps on the islands like Samos and Chios and Kos? Will they be transferred to the new camp on the island where “the people have gone through a lot and have be very patient,” as the Minister said?
Minister Chrysochoidis and the government is general is proud to have minimized the refugees flows – even though often with questionable means such as “pushbacks” that are illegal.
So the question that arises is near: If the plan is to have all 12,000 refugees relocated away from Lesvos within the next six months, then why does Greece build a new permanent camp –the largest in the EU! – on the island of Lesvos and thus with the assistance of the European Commission?
Will the new camp host refugees currently on the other islands and also display Greece’s readiness should an influx turn into a problem again?
President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday during her speech at the European Palriament speech that “the Commission is now working on a plan, for a joint plan with the Greek authorities for a new camp in Lesvos. We can help with asylum and return procedures and significantly improve conditions for refugees.”
Permanent camp until 2025
With two decisions on September 14, the Ministry for Migration and Asylum has secured the amount for the lease of land plots on Lesvos for the permanent camp until 2025.
According to an exclusive report by local media stonisi, the Ministry uploaded on state website for public expenditures Diavgeia, the amounts needed to be paid for the lease from September 2020 until 31. December 2025. The total price to be paid is 2.9 million euros.
€142,051 for the lease of the land plots for the operation of the temporary camp in Kara Tepe until 31. December 2020.
€2,750,000 (550,000 euros per year) for the lease of the same land plots in Kara Tepe from 2021 until 2025.
According to the exclusive story, the size of the whole area, extending over several hundreds of acres and including the area of the Ministry of National Defense [the firing range where the temporary camp is], shows the new refugee center will be much larger than that of Moria, the largest in Greece and in the whole European Union.”
The camp will be in direct contact with residential areas and many dozens of businesses, a few hundred meters from the village of Panagiouda, the news website notes.
Camp set up without necessary approvals
At he same time, regarding the temporary camp, the Technical Chamber of Northern Aegean region (TEE) denounces “massive arbitrariness” and violations of construction and others laws.
The Mavrovouni Firing Range (Kara Tepe) for the temporary settlement of refugees and immigrants belong to the Ministry of Defense but not the coastline and the shore lines, the TEE says among others..
In an announcement, the TEE says that the concession of the area for a camp needed approval by Environmental services, by the Marine Antiquities Authority, the Forest Service and General Staff of the Navy as well as some other departments of the state.
The TEE raises the issue of the “highest National Security” and of the “defense of the island” that is closed to the Turkish coast.
Greece vows to empty Lesbos of all refugees by Easter after fire
Exclusive: minister says island ‘has been through a lot’ as he welcomes new German offer.
The island of Lesbos will be emptied of refugees by next Easter, the Greek government has vowed, as it welcomed Germany’s offer to take in 1,500 people left without shelter.
Following the devastating fires that destroyed the notoriously overcrowded Moria facility last week, Greece’s top public order official said plans would be accelerated to decongest the outpost.
“They will all leave,” the civil protection minister, Michalis Chrysochoidis, told the Guardian. “Of the roughly 12,000 refugees here currently, I foresee 6,000 being transferred to the mainland by Christmas and the rest by Easter. The people of this island have gone through a lot. They’ve been very patient.”
About 70% of asylum seekers on Lesbos were Afghans who would be awarded refugee status and given travel papers, he said. Recognised refugees can move to another EU member state for up to three months using the documents.
Greek police detained five people on Tuesday in connection with the blazes at the camp, and are searching for one other. No more details were given but from the outset officials have attributed the fires to camp residents pressuring authorities to leave.
Chrysochoidis, who flew into Lesbos to help oversee relief efforts, welcomed reports that Germany was prepared to take in as many as 1,500 people from Moria.
The German coalition government on Tuesday agreed to take in a total of 1,553 people from 408 families whose protected status has been confirmed by Greek authorities, Angela Merkel’s spokesperson said.
Last Friday, Germany said it would take up to 150 out of approximately 400 unaccompanied minors from the camp, where more than 12,000 people were left homeless by the fire in the early hours of 9 September.
“It’s very generous, very brave,” Chrysochoidis said of the goodwill gesture. “All over Europe, countries have their own internal political problems around this issue but I also think they [EU states] can see we are protecting the bloc’s borders, we have greatly minimised flows.”
Merkel insisted on Monday any transfer of migrants to Germany would need to go hand-in-hand with a broader European initiative, emphasising her support for Greek plans for a new reception centre on Lesbos.
Apart from Luxembourg, no other country has so far showed a willingness to partake in a pan-European solution to the crisis in Moria.
Some countries, such as Austria, have categorically rejected taking in people from the destroyed camp. “If we give in to this pressure now, then we risk making the same mistake we made in 2015,” said chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, referring to Merkel’s decision to take in large numbers of refugees five years ago.
Germany’s leader faces domestic pressure from two sides on the issue. Members of her own party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), have warned that any resettlement programme must be carried out in a way as to avoid chaotic scenes akin to those at the height of the 2015 refugee crisis. “We must not go alone,” said CDU delegate Mathias Middelberg.
From the other side, Merkel faces calls from her coalition partner, the centre-left Social Democratic party (SPD), and a number of federal states and city mayors across Germany for Europe’s largest economy to step up its humanitarian efforts.
The leadership of the SPD, which will need to approve Merkel and Seehofer’s decision, has pressured its senior coalition to take in more than 5,000 people to alleviate the situation in Greece.
German calls for resettlement schemes have until now also faced resistance from Greece, where prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, accused some residents of Moria for trying to blackmail his government by deliberately setting the fires that destroyed their camp.
Chrysochoidis insisted it was crucial Moria’s erstwhile occupants move into a temporary camp, close to Mytilene, the island’s port capital, that the government, with the aid of the army had rushed to build. Opposition is such that seven days after the first blaze, only 1,000 had so far agreed to enter the new facility.
Athens’ centre-right government has enlisted NGOs and distributed multi-lingual notices in a bid to encourage relocation, saying the new site provides a safe place for asylum seekers to complete applications. Many have denounced the facility as “a new Moria, another prison.”
As tensions mounted, the Greek migration minister Notis Mitarachi alluded to the possible use of force if the displaced migrants refused to go voluntarily.
Nine riot police units and water cannon have been dispatched to the island. “If this is not possible through discussion, then the police will have to be used,” he told Mega TV. “It is their obligation to move to the new site,” he said acknowledging for the first time that families would likely spend the winter in tents.
The Greek government has pledged to build a new structure on the island that will be co-managed by EU agencies but says construction of the camp in a place that has yet to be decided will require at least six months.
Concerns over Covid-19 – more than 21 asylum seekers since the fires have tested positive for the virus in addition to 35 who were diagnosed with it before – have made resettlement even more pressing.
Close to 12,500 men, women and children have been living out in the open, often in makeshift tents of tarps and bamboo reeds. Some 406 lone migrant children, also in the camp, were flown to the mainland immediately before continuing on to European states that have agreed to accept them.
“There are groups of Afghans and I am afraid even some human rights organisations who are encouraging thousands of people not to go in,” said Chrysochoidis, who is seen as the face of the centre-right government’s tough public order policies. “It’s non-negotiable. They will leave the island but they have to go through this new facility and get the requisite legal documents first.”
Efforts will be launched in the coming days to clear the charred remains of what had once been Europe’s largest refugee camp. Designed to host no more than 3,000, Moria accommodated almost 10 times that number at its height and was regularly condemned by aid groups for its deplorable conditions.
“It was a camp of shame,” the politician admitted, denying that the government was also forcibly pushing back other refugees who were trying to get to Greece . “Now it belongs to history. It will be cleared up and replaced by olive groves.”
Six arrested over Lesvos camp blaze
Greek police have detained six migrants over a fire that razed the Moria refugee camp to the ground, the government said on Tuesday, as thousands of displaced people refused to move to a new facility and demanded to leave Lesbos island.
More than 12,000 people, mostly refugees from Afghanistan, Africa and Syria, were left without shelter, proper sanitation or access to food and water after a fire tore through the overcrowded Moria migrant camp last Wednesday.
Greek authorities believe the fire was deliberately lit by camp occupants after quarantine measures were imposed following the discovery of COVID cases on the site, but the incident has put the migrant issue firmly back on the European agenda.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis repeated a call for more help from the European Union, which has struggled to find a unified approach to the migrant crisis at its borders, saying it was time for “tangible solidarity” from Europe.
European Council President Charles Michel who visited Lesbos said the challenge was European not just Greek and urged for more commitment by EU members for a new migration policy to be effective.
“This is difficult, a very complex situation, but on behalf of the European Union, I would want to say that I refuse to paper over this migration challenge. This is a common European challenge,” Michel said.
Government officials in Berlin said Germany could take in up to 1,500 people stranded by the fire, in addition to 100-150 Berlin has already agreed to take in. But a wider solution has remained elusive.
Mitsotakis said a permanent new reception facility would be built on Lesbos with EU support and that the notoriously overcrowded and squalid Moria camp “belongs to the past”.
On the ground in Lesbos, however, thousands, including children, were still sleeping rough a week after the blaze.
Officials were struggling to overcome resistance from migrants hoping to be allowed to leave the island who fear that life in temporary shelters being erected would be no better than the conditions they endured in Moria.
Migrants wearing masks as a precaution against the coronavirus queued outside the camp gates to receive water, food and blankets from aid workers. The task was complicated by the need for COVID-19 tests, with at least 25 positive cases found among the displaced.
“The big concern is that even though many thousands of places are available and will continue to be expanded, there are still less than 1,000 that have been occupied,” said Luciano Calestini, head of the Greece office of the United Nations childrens organisation UNICEF.
Only a few hundred migrants, mainly unaccompanied minors, have been moved off Lesbos. Greek officials have said there will be no mass transfers and all asylum seekers will have to go into the new shelter.
Reportage : une semaine après l’incendie de Moria, les migrants vivent toujours dans l’enfer de la rue
Depuis une semaine, les quelque 13 000 personnes qui ont fui les incendies du camp de Moria, sur l’île de Lesbos, dorment à la rue. Au bord de la route de Mytilène, elles n’ont ni eau, ni nourriture, ni couverture.
Il est environ 15h, le soleil écrase de toutes ses forces le camp qui s’est formé le long de la route qui mène de Moria à Mytilène, sur l’île grecque de Lesbos. Soudainement, des centaines de personnes cessent leurs activités, quittent leur abri et forment, en l’espace de quelques secondes, une queue qui s’étend à perte de vue. Au bout de la file, des bénévoles d’un collectif d’ONG débutent une distribution de nourriture.
Treize mille repas vont être servis. Il risque de ne pas y en avoir pour tout le monde. « Les distributions n’ont lieu qu’une fois par jour et pour avoir à manger, il faut être costaud. Il y a un problème d’organisation », déplore Michaël, originaire de République démocratique du Congo (RDC).https://scd.infomigrants.net/media/resize/my_image_big/03ae0a90f13b267d4bc64f79a7e32e20a81cd10d.jpeg
Lundi 14 septembre, sur la route de Mytilène, les migrants ont faim depuis près d’une semaine. Lorsque les résidents de Moria ont fui les flammes qui ont dévoré le camp dans la nuit du 8 au 9 septembre et qu’ils ont été bloqués par la police sur cette route, certains ont pu acheter de quoi manger au grand magasin Lidl, en bord de mer.
Mais les policiers ont rapidement exigé du gérant qu’il tire le rideau. Les stations services ont fermé, elles aussi, ainsi que tous les autres commerces le long de cette route qui mène au centre-ville de Mytilène.
Pour se nourrir, certains rescapés de Moria demandent à d’autres migrants qui vivent dans Mytilène de leur acheter de la nourriture et de la leur apporter au camp informel qui a vu le jour. D’autres ont réussi à sauver des flammes quelques aliments qu’ils avaient achetés à Moria, souvent des paquets de pâtes.
Gertrude et Naomi préparent un plat de légumes dans une grande marmite posée sur un feu. Ces deux Congolaises ont tenté quelques fois de récupérer de la nourriture lors des distributions mais être servi relève du combat. « Pour avoir de la nourriture, il faut se bagarrer », affirme Naomi.
« Aidez-nous ! »
Assises sur une grande couverture grise flanquée du logo du HCR, deux jeunes Afghanes qui s’appellent toutes les deux Zahra donnent le biberon à leurs bébés de 5 et 7 mois. « On a ramené le lait de Moria », explique l’une d’elles, en brandissant un petit sac en plastique à moitié rempli de lait en poudre.https://scd.infomigrants.net/media/resize/my_image_big/e71506ac110e3293a1453e8b1bb9e783867e9b81.jpeg
Les deux jeunes mères manquent de nourriture et d’eau ainsi que de vêtements pour leurs enfants. C’est ce que dit aussi une autre jeune Afghane en montrant le foulard dans lequel elle a dû emmailloter sa fille de quelques mois. « Aidez-nous ! », supplie-t-elle.
Le seul point d’eau du camp improvisé se trouve à quelques dizaines de mètres de là et n’a rien d’officiel. Dans une rue qui remonte vers les oliveraies, les tuyaux destinés à l’irrigation ont été percés. Autour de chaque trou, plusieurs personnes se pressent pour remplir des bouteilles vides, laver un vêtement ou se rincer le visage. L’eau ruisselle en permanence dans la petite rue en pente et charrie des ordures.https://scd.infomigrants.net/media/resize/my_image_big/d3457b97f7d0d9659d141ef8ea627bb06f0b8e40.jpeg
Couvertures et sacs de couchage sont également très recherchés sur le camp car les nuits sont déjà fraîches. Michaël n’a que son sweat-shirt bleu pour dormir. Le Congolais guette la route car il a entendu dire que des bénévoles distribuaient quelques sacs de couchage dans le camp. Mais tellement de personnes en manquent qu’il n’y en a sûrement déjà plus. Cependant, « ce qui nous préoccupe le plus c’est de ne pas pouvoir se doucher et aller aux toilettes », explique Michaël.
Le seul moyen de se laver, c’est d’aller dans la mer. La plage n’est qu’à quelques minutes de marche du parking Lidl. Michaël aimerait aller se laver mais il n’a pas de savon.
Un tiers d’enfants
Cet après-midi, des dizaines d’enfants jouent dans la mer. La chaleur étouffante a aussi poussé quelques adultes à se mettre à l’eau.
Azim shampouine énergiquement la tête de son fils Moustapha, 3 ans, pendant que sa fille Rokhoya rayonne de bonheur en barbotant autour de lui. Après cinq mois de confinement dans le camp de Moria, c’est la première fois qu’ils peuvent approcher la mer.https://scd.infomigrants.net/media/resize/my_image_big/53a2e528f1916eb123eacd842f6d379f678dd9d1.jpeg
Le camp compte plus de 4 000 enfants, selon l’Unicef, soit un tiers des migrants de Lesbos. À la nuit tombée, quand les bruits des machines de chantier qui construisent le camp provisoire sur un terrain militaire en bord de mer se taisent, on n’entend plus que les cris des enfants qui jouent. Le parking du Lidl prend des airs de cour de récréation.
Les parents s’inquiètent de voir leurs enfants ne pas aller à l’école. La vie dans les conditions indignes du camp de Moria, puis au bord de cette route, pourrait aussi avoir des conséquences psychologiques à long terme sur ces enfants, met en garde Dimitra Chasioti, psychologue pour Médecins sans frontières (MSF).
L’environnement dans lequel ils ont grandi pourrait affecter « la manière dont ils gèrent les difficultés mais aussi leurs interactions avec les autres », décrit-elle devant la clinique mobile installée par l’ONG à deux pas des tentes.
Parmi les adultes, c’est l’angoisse de ne pas avoir d’information sur leur avenir – et notamment sur le nouveau camp provisoire en construction - qui est le plus difficile à gérer.https://scd.infomigrants.net/media/resize/my_image_big/282fd2b327e479aa5c3c24dcc6b4c447c7523cba.jpeg
Dimanche matin, Notis Mitarachi, le ministre grec de la Migration a déclaré que « tous les demandeurs d’asile y seraient transférés ». Selon son ministère, quelque 800 exilés sont désormais logés dans ce camp temporaire, fermé à la presse. L’AFP a recueilli des témoignages de personnes à l’intérieur qui ont affirmé n’avoir ni douche, ni matelas.
Naomi semble aussi terrifiée à l’idée d’aller dans ce nouveau camp que de rester à la rue. Cette mère d’une fille de 5 ans et d’un garçon de 7 mois interroge : « Comment est le camp là-bas ? Est-ce que nous devrions y aller ? »
Une intervention intéressante sur Lesbos de la présidente de la Commission européenne ainsi que de la chancelière allemande en réponse aux journalistes lors d’une conférence de presse portant initialement sur un sommet UE-Chine...il faut vraiment faire du suivi sur tout pour avoir les informations ! 😉
La chancelière a eu une parole que je trouve politiquement extrêmement forte en disant la chose suivante : « la #concentration des nombres n’est pas la bonne approche ». Ce qui est remarquable c’est qu’elle a parlé en allemand, et qu’elle a utilisé le mot « #Konzentration » ("Ich glaube, dass die Konzentration auf einer Zahl der falsche Ansatz ist"). Cette phrase porte en elle quelque chose de très fort que Migreurop dénonce depuis sa fondation, l’#encampement, la stratégie des #nasses. Ce genre de #terminologie reste, en allemand, évidemment très délicat vu l’usage du terme par le régime nazi, et je doute fort que l’on puisse imaginer la chancelière d’avoir omis cet élément l’espace d’un instant. Je pencherais plutôt pour une remarque volontaire, appelant les choses par leur nom. Nos ami.es allemand.es sur cette liste auront peut-être une autre lecture, je serais heureuse de les lire à ce sujet.
Cela n’empêchera, en suite de cette intervention, ni la chancelière, ni la présidente de la Commission européenne, de justifier de la création à venir d’un « #centre_d'accueil_européen » géré par les agences européennes et les autorités grecques en lieu et place des #hotspots actuels en Grèce (un « projet pilote » selon Van der Layen)...Ce qui finalement correspondait au plan initial comme le dénonce Migreurop depuis le départ.
Vidéo à partir de la minute 25 et 50 secondes (question du journaliste) : prise de parole #Merkel puis #Van_der_Layen. tout est doublé en anglais
Message de Marie Martin reçu via la mailing-list Migreurop, le 15.09.2020
For many migrants, the dream of freedom ends in Lesbos
After the devastating fires in the Moria migrant camp on Lesbos, Muhammad spent days on a sealed-off section of road with thousands of others. His most fervent wish is to leave the island, as DW’s Max Zander reports.
“We had some hope, but we have lost it. We thought the government would take us to Athens now,” says Muhammad Sator Massi. Muhammad, who is 19, is sitting alone on a curb in the blazing sun, looking down at the ground in resignation.
Near him, Greek garbage collectors are at work, loading one blue garbage bag after the other onto their truck with a crane. Today, they have started getting rid of the traces left by the past week. The road leading from Lesbos’ capital, Mytilene, past the Moria migrant camp is littered with plastic bottles, packaging and the remnants of temporary shelters. The bushes at the side are full of rubbish. Even though the sea is just a few steps away, there is a terrible stench.
Muhammad has fled from Afghanistan with his aunt and uncle and their six children. They have already been on Lesbos for nine months. He says that it has been a terrible time that has left deep marks on him. After the fires last week, he set off for the capital with the other camp residents. Police stopped them and sealed off the section of road they were on. Muhammad and his family were among those forced to sleep in the open air, some on cardboard cartons on the bare ground.
They spent more than a week under these conditions, then the police began clearing the improvised camp bit by bit. This morning, they arrived at Muhammad’s tent. The family was eating at the time, he says. A police officer threw their belongings all over the place and yelled at them, then began demolishing their shelter, Muhammad says.
Doubtful about conditions in the new camp
Now there is a new camp, called Kara Tepe. “They are forcing us to go there. We don’t have a choice. I don’t think it will be better than Moria; it will just be a repeat,” says Muhammad.
Like most people here, he is afraid that the conditions there will be just as unbearable or even more so than in Moria: thousands of people in a confined space without enough toilets and showers, too little to eat, barely any medical care and violence every night.
A spokesman for the Greek Migration Ministry insists that the conditions in the new camp are good, with toilets, running water and electricity. And he says its capacities are being expanded.
But people who are already in the camp have reported the opposite, saying that there are far too few toilets, meals just once a day and no mattresses or blankets in the big white tents provided by the UNHCR and the Red Cross. Many are also worried because the camp, set up in haste on a former army drill ground, is likely to be situated on soil full of toxic substances and munitions. While it was being constructed, soldiers with metal detectors could be seen searching the area around the tents. But the Migration Ministry spokesman declares that “everything is safe.”
For refugees like Muhammad, the biggest problem is the uncertainty about whether they will be allowed to leave the camp later. Greek officials have announced that it is initially to be put under quarantine, after more than 200 cases of coronavirus infection were recorded in the past few days. After two weeks, residents will be allowed to leave the camp during the day, they say. But that is not certain, and Muhammad and others are worried.
“We came here looking for protection. We aren’t prisoners. I have been on Lesbos, in Moria, for a year. I can’t bear it any longer,” he says.
Muhammad slowly gets up, because he wants to go down the road to his aunt’s family and register in the new camp with them. He seems tired and worn out. The road around him is almost deserted. Apart from the Greek garbage collectors, only a few people occasionally come by: a family from Afghanistan laden with plastic bags, a young man from Congo carrying an old, dirty tent. Muhammad sets off in the same direction and walks slowly toward the new camp.
He is smoking a cigarette. “I never used to do that; I was sporty and kept away from people who smoke. But now it calms me down,” he says.
He says he has changed a lot in the time here and that he is mentally exhausted. “We are losing a part of our lives here. It doesn’t feel as if we are alive,” he says while going past a police bus.
In Afghanistan, he was well-off financially, he says. His father is a member of the provincial council in Wardak province and owns a water company. His family had money but no security. One day, Muhammad recounts, he was on his way home from school when he was stopped by some men in a car. They said they were friends of his father and asked him to get in. When he refused, they tried to drag him into the car, but he was able to pull free and run away. “When you go to school, you don’t know if you will come home alive,” he says.
He decided to flee to Europe with his aunt. But he has given up hopes of starting a new life here, perhaps in Germany. He wanted to learn the language, study medicine and play football, his great passion.
Rather be deported than be a prisoner
By now, Muhammad has arrived at the new camp. Next to the road, there are groups, mostly of men, sitting and waiting in the shade of low bushes. For the moment, only families are being allowed to join the queue before the entrance. They are standing tightly packed. The police, equipped with protective clothing and masks, keep at a distance. Each person is registered and given a coronavirus test.
Muhammad said earlier on that he would rather be deported back to Afghanistan and die there than go to this prison. But now he has no choice. He sees his aunt standing at the front of the queue. Slowly, his head bowed, Muhammad pushes his way past the other families and disappears in the crowd.