Lesbos Island. Two asylum seekers have been shot in Lesbos. The two men, an Iranian and an Afghan, reported wounds to the Moria refugee camp’s infirmary late Wednesday evening, the camp said Thursday. They were taken to a local hospital. However, they were obviously not seriously injured.
The two men told the police that they had left the camp. Like all Greek refugee camps, Moria is currently not allowed to leave due to the pandemic. According to the Moria Corona Awareness Team, the men were shot by an unknown person about five kilometers from the camp. The attacker got away, the police have not yet given more information.
Infections with the corona virus had already been detected in two camps and in a hotel for migrants on the Greek mainland. There 150 people tested positive this week. So far, there have been no reported cases in the refugee camps on the islands. However, the authorities are not testing across the board. fhi / agencies
Specialists warn: A time bomb is ticking in the camps. Because now the corona epidemic is evoking new dangers. In two refugee camps north of Athens, 28 residents have already tested positive. The camps are now under quarantine.
There are still no known cases of infection in the island camps, but the fear of the virus is widespread in the camps. Many residents wear masks. The recommendation to keep away sounds like a mockery to the people who are crammed together in the accommodations in a confined space.
Even washing your hands is a problem: “In some parts of the Moria camp, 1,300 people have to share access to water at a tap, and there is no soap,” reports the aid organization Doctors Without Borders.
Experts fear that it will only be a matter of time before the epidemic spreads to the island camps. Florian Westphal, Managing Director of Doctors Without Borders in Germany, says there are about 600 particularly vulnerable camp residents in Lesbos and Samos alone: older people and those with previous illnesses, but also sick children. The aid organization demands: “We need an emergency evacuation of all refugees from the Covid 19 high-risk group before the virus reaches the camps.”
Around 100,000 migrants currently live in Greece. They have been stuck there since the Balkans closed their borders in February 2015. Nobody knows exactly the number of children and young people traveling alone who have been stranded in Greece. It is estimated to be more than 5,100, of which around 500 are under the age of 14. Some set off alone as orphans, others lost their parents and siblings in the confusion of flight.
According to a survey by the National Center for Social Solidarity (Ekka), which is subordinate to the Greek Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, only 1836 unaccompanied minors are cared for in suitable accommodation on the mainland. The others live in camps or are completely on their own.
The age-appropriate accommodation and care of unaccompanied minors is expensive and personnel-intensive. “You have to put them in small groups of no more than 25 children,” explains Giorgos Protopapas, director of SOS Children’s Villages in Greece.
The international organization has decades of experience in dealing with orphans and children from broken families. “Many of these children and adolescents are deeply traumatized. Psychologists, doctors, educators and interpreters are needed around the clock to look after them,” Protopapas explains.
800 unaccompanied children live on the streets
The head of the SOS Children’s Villages estimates that around 800 unaccompanied children and adolescents in Greece “live on the street” and try to make ends meet, often with prostitution and drug trafficking.
Gavriil Sakellaridis, Greece director of Amnesty International, cites an even higher number: “Around 1200 unaccompanied migrants under the age of 18 have simply disappeared from the focus of the authorities and are very likely to be exposed to serious risks without protection,” says Sakellaridis.
Almost 1,700 minors live without relatives in the five camps on the East Aegean islands. Above all, it is about the relocations that are starting now. The conditions in the five hot spots on the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Kos, Chios and Leros are catastrophic.
Moria refugee camp in Lesbos
There are still no known cases of infection in the island camps like here in Moria on Lesbos, but the fear of the virus is widespread in the camps.
The accommodations are designed for less than 8000 people. In fact, 39,429 migrants are penned up there, according to official statistics from mid-week. Because there is no more space in the living containers, an estimated 30,000 people, including many families with young children, live in camping tents or crates that they have made of slats, cardboard and plastic sheeting themselves.
The worst is the situation on Samos, where the Vathy camp with 6932 inhabitants is more than tenfold overcrowded. For example, 22 underage girls live here in a residential container that is only intended for five people.
Not enough couches for the camp residents
Because there are not enough beds, the girls have to try to sleep alternately. On the notorious Camp Moria on the island of Lesbos, 18 804 people live in accommodations that are designed for 2757 people.
Moria has made headlines as “Shame on Europe”. Residents speak of the camp as “hell”. The aid organization Human Rights Watch has documented the fate of young people in Moria. “Everything is dangerous here: the cold, the tent in which I sleep, the fights – I don’t feel safe,” says 14-year-old Afghan Rachid.
The 15-year-old Ali says that when he arrived in Moria he was given a sleeping bag and told him: “Find a place to sleep outside.” The same happened to the 16-year-old Samir: “You gave me a blanket, a used T -Shirt and a small mat and told me to look for a place outside. “The frustration of the young people is increasingly escalating into aggression: On Wednesday a 20-year-old Afghan stabbed a 16-year-old boy in an argument in Moria.
He was shocked when he visited Camp Moria, reports Christos Christou, president of the aid organization Doctors Without Borders. A third of the camp residents are under the age of 18. “These children and young people have lost their appetite for life, they don’t speak, they don’t play.”
The situation in Moria is “comparable to what we see after natural disasters or in war zones”. It is outrageous to see these conditions in Europe and to know that they “are not the result of a disaster, but the result of targeted political decisions,” says Christou.
The Greek government is trying to relieve the overcrowded island camps. Around 11,000 people have been relocated from the islands to the mainland since the beginning of the year. But most of the accommodations there are now too busy.
Greece has been demanding for years that the other EU countries take over part of the asylum procedures. The EU has been discussing a reform of the European asylum system since 2015. The aim is to relieve the countries of first arrival and to distribute the asylum procedures to all member states. But the reform is still a long time coming, mainly because some Eastern European countries refuse to accept refugees at all.
More: The admission of refugee children is a question of decency: after Germany, other EU countries should also get their way.
Athens The northeast wind drove dark clouds on Friday from the Turkish coast over the island of Lesbos. Showers fell. As always, when it rains, the trails in the Moria refugee camp turned into mud deserts. The water flushes the garbage down into the valley, seeps into the tents, soaks blankets and mattresses. “We have to act before it is too late,” says Fotini Kokkinaki from the aid organization “HumanRights360”.
For years, helpers have drawn attention to the terrible conditions in which tens of thousands of people have to live in the migrant camps on the Greek Aegean Islands. Doctors kept warning about the risk of epidemics. The fear of the corona virus is now widespread in the camps. “If the virus arrives in the crowded camps, the consequences will be devastating,” Kokkinaki warns. Curfews, closed schools, shops and restaurants: For weeks the Greek government has been fighting against the spread of the corona virus with new bans. However, the authorities initially paid little attention to the situation in the overcrowded migrant camps. The contagion drive there is particularly great because of the large spatial confinement in which people live.
So far, according to the government’s official statement in Athens, there are no known cases of infection in the migrant camps on the islands. But that says little, because there are no systematic tests at all.
The temperature is only measured for newcomers. According to official information from the end of this week, 40 703 residents live in the five so-called hotspots, the initial reception centers on the Aegean islands of Samos, Lesbos, Leros, Chios and Kos – crammed into camps that are designed to accommodate 8896 people.
19 283 migrants live in the notorious Moria camp on Lesvos, with space for 2757 residents. Because the official warehouse built from residential containers has been overcrowded for years, an estimated 15,000 people, including many families with children, live in the adjacent olive groves. They pitched camping tents there or made slats, cardboard and plastic tarpaulins.
Experts fear that the virus has long been rampant in Moria and the other camps, even if it has not yet been detected. The Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum is trying to ban the impending danger with a twelve-point plan.
Visits to the camps
This includes bans on visits to the camps. They also apply to employees of non-governmental organizations that used to play an important role in the care of people. The freedom of movement of the camp residents is also restricted.
So far, they could move freely on the islands. Now they are only allowed to leave the camps in small groups for shopping between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., but only one person per family.
Sports events and school lessons in the camps are discontinued. The sanitary facilities and common areas should be disinfected regularly. It is also planned to set up isolation stations. But it is difficult to imagine how this should be implemented in the chaotic camps.
With multilingual leaflets and loudspeaker announcements, the camp residents are informed about the precautions they can take to reduce the risk of infection. But the recommendation to keep your distance and avoid crowds of people must sound like a mockery to the camp residents.
You cannot avoid each other. Camp Vathy on Samos was built for 648 residents, but currently houses 7264 people. There are 816 places in the camp on Kos, but 2969 residents. The camp on Chios is five times overcrowded with 5363 residents.
Experts warn of uncontrollable conditions if the virus spreads in the camps. “Given the circumstances, it would be impossible to control the outbreak of the epidemic in the hotspots – thousands of lives would be in danger,” says Antigone Lyberaki of the aid organization Solidarity Now. “There is a time window to deal with the situation, but this window closes quickly.”
Government refuses to close camps
The human rights organization Human Rights Watch appealed to the government this week to immediately evacuate the island camps. The EU Commission asked Greece to take at least particularly vulnerable people, such as the elderly, the sick and families with children, from the overcrowded camps and to place them elsewhere on the islands.
The aid organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which tries to provide at least minimal medical care, especially for children, in the camps on Chios, Samos and Lesbos, demands a complete eviction: “The horrific living conditions are in the crowded hotspots on the islands an ideal breeding ground for Covid-19, ”says the MSF call.
The government has so far refused to close the camps and move migrants to the mainland. The reason: The virus is already rampant on the mainland. On the other hand, migrants are safer on the islands, as there have been almost no proven infections there, except for two cases on Lesbos, outside the camp.
Another reason why the government is hesitant to evacuate: Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis faces a problem that can hardly be solved. He doesn’t know what to do with the more than 40,000 migrants on the islands.
Because the 28 migrant camps on the mainland have long been overcrowded. The planned construction of new warehouses mostly meets with strong resistance from the population and local politicians in the affected communities.
Refugee women from the Moria migrant camp in Greece sew respirators.
There have also been local protests in the past against the accommodation of migrants in hotels and pensions that are now empty. The fear of the epidemic is likely to further fuel the resentment against migrants that is felt in many places.
The government in Athens has been calling for redistribution of asylum seekers to other EU countries for years – to no avail. In view of the corona epidemic, there is probably even less to think about than now.
After all, there is a small ray of hope: the reluctant transfer of 1,600 unaccompanied minors from the camps for weeks could finally get going, despite Corona. EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson hopes the move can begin next week.
Seven EU countries have agreed to accept the minors, including Germany. A total of around 5500 unaccompanied migrants under the age of 18 live in Greece. According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, around 2,000 of these are on the islands.
Regardless of the corona crisis, the federal government is in favor of quickly receiving minors from the refugee camps on the Greek islands. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer stand by his promise, said ministry spokesman Steve Alter on Friday in Berlin.
Looking at the organization of the EU Commission, he said: “According to our knowledge, there is movement in there.” He could not say exactly when it will happen, but “we also see progress”.
Whether Germany will eventually accept 250 or 400 minors is still as unanswered as the question of when they will leave Greece. “The Federal Government is in intensive exchange with the European partners to ensure prompt takeovers from the Greek islands,” said the Interior Ministry.
More: Greeks flee to the islands for fear of the virus: More and more Greeks are taking refuge on one of the islands. But the townspeople are not welcome there.
In the Moria camp, Nassir, a Syrian refugee in his thirties, oscillates between anger and fear: “Ten times a day the loudspeakers tell us that we have to keep our distance and stay at home, but where do they live? They don’t see that when you stand in line for hours to eat, you’re a few inches from each other? They don’t see that the shower heads, the shower doors, the toilets are touched a hundred times in an hour by people who don’t wear gloves, because nobody has them? “
At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, his wife is pregnant with their first child and his interview for the study of his asylum application is scheduled for July 2021, in a year and a half. “We have time to die ten times by then”, explains this computer specialist on the phone.
Like most of the more than 19,000 people who survive in this camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, he has read placards posted everywhere asking people to stay at home, to protect themselves, while three cases of coronavirus have been detected on the island. “How can they know that there is no positive person in the camp since no one is tested? They just want to avoid panic by all means. “
Avoiding panic is the leitmotif of all the NGOs on site in Lesbos. Michalis Aivaliotis, a former school principal, transformed his education program for refugee children, Stand by Me Lesbos, from the start of the coronavirus crisis into a water tanker program. “This is the most important thing. How do you ask people to wash their hands 10 times a day when there is only one water point for 1,300 people and most often without soap? ”
At Doctors Without Borders, we don’t hesitate to talk “Of an announced catastrophe”. His spokesperson, Peter Casaer, sounds the alarm: “These people must be evacuated very quickly to a healthy place. Here, they live under plastic sheeting with families of two, three, or six people who share 2 to 3 m2. What will happen in the event of contamination? “
“We are really not ready”
The question is all the more acute since the hospital in Lesbos is not equipped for this kind of crisis. “I’m afraid of the reaction of both refugees and locals in the event of an epidemic,continues Peter Casaer. There are only a few beds to isolate the patients and even if we are in direct contact with the local authorities who collaborate with us, we are really not ready. What is going on here is a scandal. We tell people that they have to protect themselves but nothing is planned for them. ” Nassir drives the point home: “We are given children’s diapers and basic goods, but what we need are masks, gel, gloves. “
In the small village of Ayiassou, near Moria, Greek and Afghan women sew masks all day long, and also white scarves for the team of White Helmets who have just formed in the camp. In Syria, they searched the rubble of bombed buildings in search of survivors, in Moria, they crisscrossed the muddy alleys to inform of the dangers of the coronavirus. “This is the minimum we can do. We seem to be useful ”, Karim lets go quickly on the phone.
We can, like you and me, want to kill this damn crowned virus that eats our lives and grieve all of the thousands of deaths it does on its way, without refraining from recalling – and think about it further since, our race stopped, the lack of time can no longer be an excuse – that there are other invisible viruses, of another nature but no less deleterious, we dare to admit, which for more for a long time circulate in our countries: cynicism, indifference and cowardice. What else would be responsible, for example, for the 370,000 dead from Syria and the 36,000 dead from migrants in the Mediterranean? What barriers to counter the contagion of these viruses? What emergency decreed for our moral health?
The point is, if we didn’t spark Covid-19, we’re the ones secreting the viruses I’m talking about. Are the deaths, violence, unrest and incurable suffering that political cynicism generates less likely to cause our fear and a collective outburst? Let us take again as an example, the closest and most recent disaster that these moral vices have caused. It has the name Lesbos. Evil is described as follows: in January 2020, 20,000 migrants in the Moria camp designed for 3,000, a tap for 1,300 people, no soap, sexual violence, almost daily crimes, children left to fend for themselves, stacking of garbage, NGOs tracked by far-right militias, etc. On March 16, a 6-year-old girl died there in a container fire. The death of this little girl and that of the dead kid drowned because the smugglers capsize boats on the approach to the island did not make a lot of noise here.
Too bad if it is not politically correct, too bad if I am accused of a naive humanist, I say that these two deaths are more unbearable to me than the one, which saddens me, yes, of course, victim of Covid-19. Because these deaths were more preventable. Does it take billions of euros for the Moria camp to disappear? Marie Cosnay, writer of heart and courage, went to Lesbos, she said in this newspaper what it was: “Waste, body, olive tree”. And she talked about “This scandal we are living in and which is not named”. This is the opportunity here to name it: cowardice.
Between the refugees, migrants and asylum seekers living in the countryside of Moria, the largest of the Greek island of Lesbos, the question is always the same: “why do they do this to us? Why do they lock us here? “
Because everyone the same thing happens to them when they arrive at Greece since Turkey. When rescuing a ship, greek police, without distinction, sends all refugees towards the fields, where migrants are trapped for months or even if they are not lucky, years. The one in Moria – with almost 20,000 inhabitants is the largest and most infamous – is just one example: there are, also, in the islands of Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros.
“My children are sick. When I hear a fight at night, I always prepare my suitcase, see my children and put them on. Then I feel to wait because if it happens near us we can escape fast. I have to do this every night, “he said, a month ago, Darya, a Afghan refugee inhabitant of Moria. In total, like Darya, there are trapped in the Greek islands near 40,000 asylum seekers, a figure that reaches 115,000 throughout Greece.
The Greek Government, in the hands of the Conservative Party New Democracy (ND), leave the refugees trapped in the islands with a clear idea: deport them when before best and as far as possible, either to Turkey or to other countries.
“I want Send a message Of course to those who know that they have no right to asylum and yet choose to come to our country – the Greek Prime Minister said Wednesday, Kyriakos Mitsotakis-. Let them not come, because the road opened by traffickers, to those who pay, does not lead to Greece or Europe. It stops on the islands, from where it will begin the way back “.
This attitude, which did not exist with the previous Government of Syriza, has created more tension on the islands, especially between the refugee community. In recent months, the violence It has been uncontrolled in fields like Moria’s. Something that has also contributed to the increase in arrivals. It will be difficult for the Greek Executive to reverse the situation: in what we take from 2020 they have reached the islands almost 5,000 people plus.