One year on from the devastating fire which burned Moria Camp on Lesbos to the ground, living conditions for refugees on the island remain highly substandard. The extremely high summer temperatures make life difficult for residents of Mavrovouni camp (“Moria 2”) and women still report fear and danger in accessing parts of the camp at night. Up to 91% of the camp’s residents remain without COVID-19 vaccinations. In recent months European solidarity mechanisms have dried up and relocations to other European member states stall, leaving thousands of men, women, in children in Mavrovouni, as another winter in tents looms. Though number of refugees in Lesbos continues to decrease as a result of very limited arrivals and relocations to the mainland, this decrease should be framed against ongoing reports on pushbacks at Greek borders.
A Joint Ministerial Decision of the Greek government, published on 7 June 2021 designates for the first time Turkey as a safe third country for asylum seekers from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Somalia, which means that their applications will be rejected in Greece as ‘inadmissible’ if they transited through Turkey. This decision raises serious concerns at the possibility of a fair examination of asylum applications for asylum seekers from those countries, who are the majority of applicants in Greece. It also threatens to turn the Greek islands, Lesbos between them, into a dead-end for asylum seekers, as its implementation would leave thousands of asylum seekers in danger of being trapped in limbo, denied protection in the EU and unable to return to Turkey, which has not accepted forced returns from Greece since 2020.