Despite all the criticism, a new camp is being built on the Greek island of Lesbos. But refugees also suffer on the mainland.
If there is one thing that the islanders and the refugees on Lesbos agree on, it is that there should be no “Moria 2” on the island. Some because they are afraid of Corona, bad press and missing tourists. The others because they don’t want to go in and fear an extension of their martyrdom.
“We have informed them that they have to go to the facility, but they refuse,” said a police spokesman for the AFP agency about the refugees who are still on the road near the island’s capital. “You want to leave Lesbos.”
It looks like they’ll be disappointed. “Nobody will leave Lesbos without first being in the interim camp,” said Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrisohoidis. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis reaffirmed that a permanent reception camp for refugees would be set up on Lesbos.
Apparently this has already started. The Greek newspaper Sto Nisi released a Tuesday-dated lease between the Department of Immigration and Asylum and the private owner of the property on which the army has been camping since the weekend. The owner is to receive 2.9 million euros for the use of the dried up land by December 31, 2025. So the camp should stay there.
Recognized but homeless in Athens
The EU asylum support office EASO has announced that it will resume processing asylum cases from Moria. The EU agency supports the Greek authorities in handling the procedures in the camp.
When the corona pandemic broke out in the spring, Greece had crammed 20,000 people into Moria. Around 7,000 have since been brought to the mainland. Part because her asylum application was recognized, part because of humanitarian reasons. Some of them go to facilities that the UN refugee agency UNHCR operates with EU funds. Others come to camps of the Greek state. Many more – including recognized ones – live completely unsupervised on the streets in Athens.
The 40-year-old Somali, who was identified as the first corona case in Moria camp two weeks ago, was one of them. He had been recognized in July and was allowed to leave Moria. But because he was completely unsupervised in Athens, he returned to Lesbos. In short: refugees are doing particularly badly on the islands, but not everyone is doing better on the mainland.
Against this background, the EU Commission has welcomed the fact that Germany wants to take in refugee families with children from Greece. The news from Berlin was received “very positively” and “in direct contact with the German government,” said a spokesman for the authorities at the request of the taz in Brussels. A coordination meeting with other EU countries also took place on Tuesday afternoon.
Optimism for European solution
So far, in addition to Germany, nine other EU states and Switzerland have agreed to accept unaccompanied minors from Moria. Berlin and Brussels are campaigning for other EU countries to participate and – like Germany – also to accept families. The aim is to avoid German going it alone and to bring a “European solution” closer.
“We are optimistic that there will be even more commitments,” says a letter from EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson and Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer that the taz has received. The letter of September 14 also deals with the relocation of families from the Greek islands to other EU countries.
“The German Presidency and the EU Commission would like to appeal to all member states” to participate in the “resettlement of unaccompanied minors and families with children”, it continues. It is about improving the situation of asylum seekers in Greece. Europe can only master this “enormous challenge” together.
According to Seehofer and Johansson, there are currently 85,000 refugees in Greece, 26,700 of them on the islands.