Widespread Fires destroy large parts of overcrowded camp Moria

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Moria Refugee Camp, Lesbos, Sept 9th, 2020

Widespread Fires destroy large parts of overcrowded camp

On the night from the 8th to 9th of September a fire broke out in the overcrowded Moria Refugee Camp following unrest after isolation of inhabitants. At 2 am, a team of five medical volunteers working on the island, including one member of EFH, set out to the camp to deliver medical assistance to victims of the fire. At this time, people had already started fleeing in the directions of the nearby cities. Children separated from their parents were asking for help. Despite the dramatic situation and asylum seekers in need of medical assistance, the team was stopped and forbidden to pass through to the camp by police forces.

Human Rights have been burned down

In an attempt to support wandering victims, the team was attacked by a group of local extremists with stones and wooden clubs, shattering car windows and trying to pull people out of the vehicle. The medical team is now safe, but almost 13 000 refugees and asylum seekers are not. Large parts of the camp are devastated and remain uninhabitable. Thousands of people were forced to spend the night in the woods or nearby towns, but have nowhere to go. The greek authorities have not yet released a roadmap on how to provide basic humanitarian support and places to stay for the victims of the fires. For us it is clear: The most important task is now to provide food, water, sanitation and shelter for those people that Europe is responsible for. International humanitarian aid organizations call for fast action to prevent further unrest, spreading of Covid-19 amongst refugees and asylum-seekers and a humanitarian crisis.

Evacuation and aid are paramount

Since March of this year EFH and every single non-governmental organization operating in the area have been denouncing the inhumane conditions in which people are held in the various refugee camps on the Aegean Islands.

Moria camp must not be rebuilt.

We have been warning for months that such a catastrophe was imminent and should have been prevented. The cause of the rapidly spreading fires remains unclear, but harsh winds, dry ground and overall lack of fire prevention measures in the camp contributed to the catastrophe. Commenters and spokespeople around the world agree that the situation was foreseeable and avoidable. Moria and other refugee camps on the Aegean Islands have not been built to accommodate these vast amounts of people for such a long period of time. Moria camp must not be rebuilt. Refugees and asylum seekers have to be accommodated according to the International Declaration of Human Rights and Charta of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

The camps must be evacuated now with inhabitants being relocated to proper housing.

COVID-19 is no excuse

Until now the Greek government has used COVID-19 as an excuse to extend the lockdown and keep people behind Moria’s fences. After the first outbreak earlier last week, tension and fear in the camp have risen. The fire has just added to the usually chaotic situation in the so-called “jungle”. However, COVID-19 cannot be further used as an excuse to violate those people’s rights who have turned to Europe in a desperate cry for protection from war, violence and fear. An adequate plan of action with regards to medical and housing assistance needs to be put in place immediately to guarantee safety and protection of refugees and asylum seekers.

Fires roam on the day after the inferno.

Since Feburary 2020, EFH has called upon European leaders to act against Human Rights violations and brutal treatment of people on European soil. An unjust system in the hands of heartless leaders leads to protest and opposition. We are proud to be a part of a civil society that holds Human Rights and respectful treatment of all people above individual interests and political calculation.

At the release of this statement, EFH has been contacted and reported the events to several media channels, including Süddeutsche Zeitung, WDR Fernsehen, (German) Radio1, Sky News and Rádio e Televisão de Portugal (RTP), Südfinder, Lindauer Zeitung.

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