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Society

Lesbos Simmers Over Refugee, Migrant Camp Overflows

February 4, 2020

MORIA, Lesbos – With the notorious Moria camp on the island of Lesbos and overflows outside holding some 25,000 refugees and migrants in a place built for one-fifth that capacity, frustrated residents stormed into a government office to demand something be done.

The New Democracy government earlier admitted it wasn’t prepared for new waves late last year that brought another 50,000 from Turkey, where they had gone fleeing war and strife in their homelands and came in boats and dinghies to Greek islands.

Virtually all of them, as well as another 50,000 in mainland camps, are seeking asylum to prevent being returned to Turkey under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union.

The government said it would move 20,000 more to the mainland from islands, including Chios and Samos, but the pace hasn’t satisfied islanders or officials and there has been frequent violence and killings in the Moria camp, between ethnic groups and riot police regularly are called in to quell trouble.

Lesbos residents went into the General Secretariat for Aegean and Island policy in the capital of Mytilini to demand a response to the overcrowding after a rally by people being held in the camp and those outside became violent.

That came, said Kathimerini, after a tense community meeting  attended by Northern Aegean Regional Governor Kostas Moutzouris and Mytilini Mayor Stratis Kytelis where residents expressed boiling frustration and anger.

Riot police earlier had kept some 2,000 protesting refugees and migrants from reaching the capital but clashes quickly broke out, showing the level of the growing fury over asylum applications being delayed two years or more.
After the meeting, Moutzouris contacted Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis in Athens to ask for police reinforcements and two more units were being sent to the island.

“I’ll admit that I’m not optimistic,” said Moutzouris to reporters after the meeting. “The numbers don’t add up. Given the 25,000 people trapped in open and closed centers and the inflows that are not stopping, I’m sorry, I cannot be optimistic and expect a solution.

“Things are said all the time and promises are made that are not kept. The migrants are people who are suffering; they have crossed seas and oceans for a better life and are now trapped on Lesbos. Coupled with the appalling living conditions, it is a situation that creates anger and desperation,” he added.

Protesters are angry over the living conditions in the camp that the BBC called “the worst in the world” and as human rights groups, activists, volunteers and NGOs there said people are in an inhumane situation without adequate toilets or other necessities.

The government said it would also speed the pace of asylum applications as well as deportations but there’s no way to force Turkey to take them back despite the deal as only about 2,000 have been returned in almost four years.
There are also plans to replace camps on the islands with detention centers to sort out those deemed ineligible for sanctuary because they didn’t come from war zones but are economic migrants looking for work.

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