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Society

Activist Chorus Decrying Refugee Tent City on Lesbos Grows

A tent city hastily assembled on the island of Lesbos to house some 8,000 refugees and migrants burned out of the notorious Moria camp that was torched in protest against a COVID-19 quarantine is even worse, said the Greek Council for Refugees and the international charitable organization Oxfam.

The groups said the residents are living in abysmal conditions in the camp on the edge of the Aegean Sea where there aren't showers, requiring people to bathe in the waters there and other groups said they are being fed only once a day.

There's also little or no running water in some spots, no sewage management or treatment, limited health facilities and inadequate shelter, they said, although the New Democracy government said it was moving to improve conditions it said had problems because the tent center was put together so fast.

Almost 8,000 people – most of them families with children – have been moved to the new camp, which residents call Moria 2 in derision, complaining their tents are small and flimsy and some only 20 meters (66 feet) from the sea's edge and are battered by sea winds and had been flooded in recent heavy rains.

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, the groups also said.

In a recent survey, Oxfam claimed food supplies were limited and the camp was ill-equipped to protect people against COVID-19 and that women were more at risk of sexual violence, given the lack of toilets and lighting in the camp.

They said the residents should be relocated to the mainland and to other European Union countries who have refused to take them and with the bloc long ago closing its borders to them without any pretense.

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,” he added.

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.”

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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