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Refugees, Migrants Say Lesbos Tent City Bad as Moria

Αssociated Press

Heavy machines operate as migrants gather at the new temporary refugee camp in Kara Tepe, on the northeastern island of Lesbos, Greece, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Panagiotis Balaskas)

Thousands of refugees and migrants burned out of the notorious overcrowded detention Moria camp on the island of Lesbos are being moved into a tent city for the winter and they're not happy.

Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis told Parliament the number on the island would be dramatically cut over the next few months, more than 12,500 needed shelter after a fired that authorities said was set in protest over a quarantine brought by COVID-19.

Declaring that “Moria is finished,” Mitarakis said the new permanent facility that will replace it will be “modern, safe and dignified,” said Kathimerini about the camp that human rights groups and activists said wasn't fit for humans.

Those moved into the tents – more than 9,000 so far and resisting all the while, wanting to go to the mainland – said it's just as bad for them to be confined there as in Moria.

Since the fire, more than 500 of those displaced  have been taking shelter at a center run by Team Humanity, a nonprofit humanitarian organization said PRI's The World in a feature. 

“Now, it’s the time for them to go to the new camp,” said Emad Baghlani, one of the group’s coordinators, as he helped migrants pack and load their belongings into a bus taking them to the tent city managed by Greece and agencies of the European Union.

Many who have already moved into the camp, a former military firing range, say conditions are inhumane, and they worry their new home will turn into the next Moria , known for its squalid and overcrowded conditions.

“I hope to (leave) the new camp as soon as possible, to go to another country,” said Javad, a 13-year-old asylum-seeker from Afghanistan, who has been on Lesbos for 14 months with his parents and two siblings. “I want to be free.”

Nazanin, a 14-year-old, Afghan asylum-seeker, has already relocated to the new camp and said the conditions aren't good, with not enough toilets or running water and a lack of garbage bins and trash cans. 

“It’s very crowded,” Nazanin said, adding that two families were being housed in each tent, regardless of the number of family members. “I’m really worried that it will be Moria again.”

Sources inside the camp told The World that single men are being packed into larger mega tents, about 150 in each, and worried about a further spread of the Coronavirus after 253 cases were found.

Some said it's also difficult getting food, which is distributed only once a day, leaving some to go into the nearby capital of Mytilene to try to buy more with what they have, as they're allowed out from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The new camp is near the sea, which they crossed from Turkey after going there fleeing war, strife and economic hardships in their homelands, hoping to find a new home in the EU before the borders were closed, leaving them to seek asylum in Greece.

“Afghanistan is war. As you know it’s attacks and wars,” Nazanin said of her home country. “Because of that all we come here, come to Europe to have a good living. But (even) Afghanistan ... is better than this,” he then added.