Greece Fire in Moria camp highlights abject failure of government and EU to protect refugees

Responding to the tragic fire in which a woman died in Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos yesterday, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Europe Massimo Moratti said:

“The fire in Moria refugee camp and the death and injuries it caused have highlighted the Greek government’s and the EU’s abject failure to manage the deplorable situation of refugees in Greece.

With 12,503 people living in a camp designed for 3,000, and with fires previously breaking out in the camp, authorities cannot deny that this tragedy was preventable. Three people have died just this month.

“The supposed flagship agreement, the EU-Turkey deal, has only made the situation worse. It has denied thousands of people trapped on the Aegean Islands their dignity and violated their rights.

“Moria is overcrowded and unsafe. The Greek authorities must immediately evacuate and assist, including through medical care, those affected by yesterday’s events and accelerate transfers of asylum seekers and refugees to adequate accommodation on the mainland. Other EU member states must also assist by urgently agreeing on relocation schemes that can ease the pressure on Greece.”

Background

In recent weeks, Amnesty International has witnessed a drastic deterioration of the conditions for refugees on the Aegean Islands, with a disconcerting 30.000 and more currently present in the various facilities. Overcrowding has reached its worst levels since 2016, with Lesvos and Samos hosting up to four and eight times’ their respective capacities. The situation of children in the islands also deteriorated sharply, with tragic death of a 15-year-old Afghan in the ‘safe zone’ of the Moria camp testifying to the fundamental lack of safety for the thousands children forced to live in the hotspot.

In early September, based on public announcements, the Greek government started to implement transfers of refugees and asylum seekers from the islands to facilities on the mainland. Such transfers, carried out in cooperation with IOM, have so far only amounted to fragmented initiatives. Today Greek authorities have announced an intention to implement 3,000 transfers by the end of October. However, arrivals are on the increase since July of this year and more than 3,000 people arrived this past week alone. The policy of containment of newcomers on the Aegean Islands remains unchanged, so these measures are blatantly insufficient to resolve the prolonged insecure and undignified conditions that refugees and asylum seekers have been condemned to since the EU-Turkey deal was implemented.

See Amnesty International’s recent comprehensive statement on the refugee issue in Greece here: https://www.amnesty.gr/news/press/article/22484/prosfygiko-na-milisoyme-epiteloys-gia-anthropines-zoes