In Lesbos, the streets gradually emptied of thousands of homeless refugees

After a police operation carried out in the early morning, the streets and car parks near the ruins of the burnt camp of Moria, on the Greek island of Lesbos, were gradually emptying on Thursday thousands of migrants who had been sleeping there for a week in the same room. asphalt, 5,000 of them having joined a new camp.

“We were free, and now we will be locked up again,” Mustafa, a Sudanese refugee, told AFP.

“If we don’t want to go to the camp, they will force us to do so,” added Abdul Sabu, an Afghan migrant. “We have to go, otherwise our asylum application will be rejected,” added his compatriot Fahim Sharifi.

Thousands of exiles, on the streets since the fire that destroyed the Moria mega-camp on the night of September 8-9, were roused from their sleep by the police at 7 a.m. to be driven to the new camp, “provisional” assure the authorities.

Police, present in force after blocking access to the area to Médecins Sans Frontières and the media, were walking around the tents, quietly, to empty the area of ​​its homeless, a journalist from the AFP.

Under an already strong sun and against a backdrop of children’s tears, the refugees calmly folded their blankets and carried their meager things, which had been saved from the flames, in bags.

Family by family, some with strollers others pulling crates, refugees still lined up in the afternoon outside the camp, hastily erected by the authorities and the UN after the fire.

“Migrants are transferred from the street to the new structure, from abandonment to care, from health risks to public health control”, welcomed the Minister of Citizen Protection Michalis Chryssohoïdis, present during of the police operation.

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So far, 5,000 migrants have joined the new camp, 135 of whom have tested positive for the coronavirus, Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said Thursday afternoon.

It will take “a few days” to transfer the other 7,000 or so, the minister told media outside the camp.

Eight organizations deplored that in the new camp, no legal aid is provided to migrants, who have to re-apply for asylum and to do so through teleconference interviews.

“Neither asylum seekers nor legal support organizations have yet received information from the Greek authorities on this infrastructure,” the groups said in a joint statement.

The Moria camp, the largest in Europe, set up five years ago at the height of the migration crisis and criticized for its sordid conditions, was completely destroyed by the fire, premeditated according to the Greek authorities. Six young Afghan migrants were arrested, four of whom were indicted for “arson”.

– “Some go there, others resist” –

Many refugees have refused to settle in the new camp for fear of being trapped again for months awaiting a possible transfer to mainland Greece or another European country.

“Some go, others resist,” said Scotty Kelew, 29, who arrived from the Democratic Republic of Congo six months ago. “We are really puzzled, we do not know what to do,” he told AFP. He thinks that “sooner or later” he himself will have to go there but “for now”, he remains “outside the camp”.

For Mustafa, “it’s horrible” in the camp, “there is nothing, not enough food, toilets, no shower, there is not even a bed and no electricity available for the camp. ‘instant “.

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Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Thursday that “conditions are better in the new camp compared to those in Moria”.

The objective of this new camp is to allow the refugees to “gradually leave the island for Athens” or “to be resettled elsewhere”, according to the representative in Greece of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Greece, Philippe Leclerc, who visited Lesbos.

Michalis Chrysochoidis estimated that “half” of the exiles could leave Lesbos “by Christmas” and “the others by Easter”.

A complaint was filed locally Thursday against the new camp, arguing that it does not meet standards for protecting the environment and archaeological sites.

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