As EU members states attempt to agree on a new migration pact, refugees in Lesbos describe the new camp on the island as worse than Moria, as Marianna Karakoulaki reports from Lesbos.
Since September 8, the Moria refugee camp — once Europe’s largest — is no more; the camp, where thousands of people lived in catastrophic conditions, was engulfed by flames and burnt to the ground.
Six of its residents, four adults and two unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan, are in pre-trial detention, facing prosecution for arson.
At the time of its destruction, Moria had nearly 13,000 residents, who found themselves suddenly in limbo on the coastal road between Moria and Mytilene, Lesbos’ capital city. They were neither allowed to go back to Moria when the fire died down nor were they allowed to reach Mytilene.
On Wednesday, European Commission announced it is to set up a migrant reception center in Lesbos to be run together with Greece.
“Moria is a stark reminder,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. “We need to find sustainable solutions on migration and we all have to step up.”
Built in a what initially looks like an idyllic setting and surrounded by the Aegean Sea, the new camp, referred to as “RIC Lesvos” by the Greek authorities, has hidden dangers.
“I think that because the new camp is near the sea, it will be dangerous for children,” says Firuzeh* who moved in a week ago.
Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) describe the place as worse than Moria.
“In the sun it looks like a nice place where kids can go for a swim. But it is extremely exposed to [inclement] weather and once the weather turns and it starts raining and the wind starts blowing people will have their feet in the water,” says Caroline Willemen, Field Coordinator for the MSF’s COVID-19 Response team in Lesbos.
The initial hope for change that the destruction of Moria created turned into an endless fear for those inside the new camp. They fear that they have ended up in a new Moria that is far worse, while the global coronavirus pandemic adds to their insecurity. Many feel that they will never be able to get out of what seems like an endless ordeal.
Although RIC Lesvos is seen as the new approach to the EU’s hot spots, its residents describe the conditions there as abysmal. From poor hygiene to leftover bullets from the shooting range, refugees have plenty of reasons to be scared of being left there.
No ‘baths or clean toilets’
Aliyah*, a 13-year-old girl from Afghanistan has been sending pictures of the camp through WhatsApp which show the extent of the poor conditions.
DW witnessed pictures of babies with skin conditions, small injuries to children who were hit by tear gas canisters, all left untreated or with minimal provisions such as creams that do not work. Children, who have fled war and post-conflict areas holding bullets they found on the ground.
At the same time the lines for food are endless and food provisions are minimal.
“This camp is worse than Moria,” both Firuzeh and Aliyah told DW.