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New camp ‘worse than Moria’ with thousands living in abysmal conditions

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Thousands of people are living in abysmal conditions in a new camp, which was built to replace Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, after it was destroyed by fire last month. According to the Greek Council for Refugees and Oxfam, conditions are even worse than in Moria, with little or no running water, no sewage management or treatment, limited health facilities and woefully inadequate shelter.

Almost 8,000 people – most of them families with children – have been moved to the new camp, which has been dubbed ‘Moria 2.0’ by residents. Many are living in flimsy tents, some of which are pitched just 20 metres from the sea and have already been flooded and battered by strong winds. The location of the new camp is on a former military shooting range, which had to be swept for landmines and unexploded grenades before being built on.

In a recent survey, Oxfam found that food supplies were limited and the camp was ill-equipped to protect people against COVID-19. Due to the lack of running water, many people were having to wash in the sea, putting them at risk of drowning or getting sick from being exposed to sewage from the camp. It also found that women were more at risk of sexual violence, given the lack of toilets and lighting in the camp.

Oxfam and The Greek Council for Refugee are calling for the immediate relocation of those seeking asylum in Lesbos to more suitable accommodation on the Greek mainland and in other European countries.

Oxfam’s EU migration expert, Raphael Shilhav, said: “When Moria burnt down, everyone said ‘no more Morias’, but conditions in the new camp are even worse. There’s very little water, the shelters are flooded and battered by wind, and people have been fainting from lack of food.

“Rather than relocating asylum seekers to proper shelters where they would be safe, they are being trapped in destitution and misery in another abysmal camp.”

Natalia-Rafaella Kafkoutsou, refugee law expert at the Greek Council for Refugees, said: “We are deeply concerned about living conditions in the new camp and urge Greece to immediately relocate everyone from the island. Though the government’s plan to relocate all residents by Easter is welcome, it fails to address the squalid conditions in the camp, which will deteriorate in winter.”

Oxfam warned that the new EU Pact on Migration and Asylum proposes more camps at Europe’s borders, like the ones on Lesbos, to screen people seeking asylum.

Shilhav said: “Experience shows that its unlikely resources will be invested to ensure a fair and efficient asylum procedure in the camps. Ordinary people using their legal right to flee conflict and human rights abuses will remain in limbo and despair, out of sight of the European public and politicians.”

Kafkoutsou said: “European governments need to work together and ensure effective relocation across member states for those seeking protection in Europe. The practices and policies that led to the failure of the EU ‘hotspot’ approach, both in Lesbos and the other Aegean islands, should not be replicated and consolidated in the EU’s future asylum system, which seems to be the case with the current proposals for a new EU migration pact.”

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For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact: Sarah Dransfield in the Oxfam press office on 07884 114825 or email sdransfield@oxfam.org.uk

Notes to editors:

  • Spokespeople are available in Athens and Lesbos (English, Greek) as well as in Brussels (English).
  • The latest Lesbos Bulletin, (a bi-monthly update on the situation in the EU ‘hotspot’ refugee camp in Lesbos) produced by the Greek Council for Refugees and Oxfam is published today (21 October).
  • The recent survey mentioned above was a rapid protection assessment carried out by Oxfam at the end of September. Please get in touch if you would like a copy.
  • The fire in Moria camp occurred on the 8 and 9 September and left over 12,000 people without shelter.
  • After the fire, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said that “Conditions in Moria, both before and after the fire, were unacceptable… It is not good enough to say never again, we need action and all Member States must play their part.”
  • The UNHCR and NGOs protested against the Greek government’s decision to close two alternative community-based care sites in Lesbos for people seeking asylum, Kara Tepe and Pikpa. Following this pressure, the government has stated that the facility would temporarily remain open.