Yesterday marked one month since Moria Camp was burnt to the ground. Fenix reiterates its call for urgent action to provide a dignified solution to the thousands of asylum seekers and refugees living in the emergency new site in Lesvos.
After over a week of living in the streets, thousands of people were moved into the new emergency site in Kara Tepe. Although European leaders have stated once and again that there should be ‘no more Morias’, many say that the new site is worse than Moria, another form of inhumane and undignified containment of asylum seekers.
UNHCR declares that there are critical gaps in hygiene, sanitation, water, drainage and health services in this new site, which need to be addressed immediately. We welcome the relocation of over 1000 asylum seekers and refugees to other European countries, but it is not enough. 7.800 people are still left behind in these quickly deteriorating conditions. While calls for urgent action regarding the new site continue, the government has announced that dignified accommodation facilities such as PIKPA and Kara Tepe, that currently house the most vulnerable of asylum seekers, will be closed down. We call the government to ensure that these initiatives remain in place until a durable solution is achieved.
As the rain of yesterday showed, and as many actors have expressed since the site’s creation, the camp is not prepared for cold or rainy weather. As UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo stated on October 9th at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, the area is not equipped to provide necessary protection against low temperatures and is prone to flooding.
Its location next to the sea makes it especially susceptible to winds and flooding. Many of the tents are still placed directly on the ground, with no flooring or other form of protection from the rain, wind and cold that winter will bring. Due to the lack of proper drainage in the new site and tardy winterization of the tents, the first rain flooded many of the tents and people, once again, lost their belongings. While UNHCR plans to work on tent reinforcement, graveling and flooring in the next few days, plastic sheets, wooden pallets and plywood sheets are not a solution. These will not effectively protect people from the cold and wet winters of Lesvos. Tents are not adequate, safe or dignified shelter for people seeking refuge in Greece.
Moreover, the conditions of the WASH facilities in the new camp are currently below standard. There are eight water points for the camp. There are 342 chemical toilets without water connection. The condition of the chemical toilets is horrendous. People express that at least a third of them are so dirty that they cannot be used.
There are no showers. Most people wash themselves at the water taps, in the sea, or with the limited amount of water that they receive during the daily food distribution. Trucks with water hoses come to the camp but none of these options allow for any privacy or dignity. As it gets colder, washing in the open air is not an option.
Finally, there are numerous protection concerns. Alleged minors (children that declare to be minors with no family and who are awaiting an age assessment from the authorities) are sleeping in rubbhalls with over a hundred adults and they are showering in public spaces, with all the safety risks that that entails for a child. While some of the single women and female head of households have been transferred to safe shelter, many others remain in the camp housed with the general population. For those with disabilities, there are no better conditions. They sleep on the floor of the tents while they await a transfer to adequate accommodation. They cannot use the toilet, as the only option are small chemical toilets in which wheelchairs or any other type of mobility support does not fit.
At Fenix, we continue to provide uninterrupted legal and protection support to our clients. As interviews restart, it is essential that people can access information and support during their asylum procedure. We continue to identify and assess clients with severe vulnerabilities and we provide them with targeted protection services, ensuring their access to safe shelter, medical and mental health services.
We reiterate our call to European States to honour their commitments to human dignity and provide a long term and dignified solution to migration. This second Moria is not such a solution. People should be evacuated. No one should be left behind.