MORIA FIRES: European Governments must urgently relocate displaced individuals from Greece
Over the past two days devastating fires1 burnt down the Moria Registration and Identification Center and surrounding areas, the EU Hotspot on the Greek island Lesvos. The fires have left thousands of vulnerable individuals homeless and traumatised,2 among them over 4,000 children.3
The undersigned organisations reiterate their call on the governments of EU Member States, with support from the European Commission,4 to urgently relocate displaced individuals from Greece.
While we are shocked and saddened at these developments, they come as no surprise. Lesvos and the other EU Hotspots5 on the Aegean islands have reached breaking point long ago.6 Moria camp is currently hosting roughly 12-13,000 displaced individuals, with an official capacity of only 2,800. These severely overcrowded camps are characterised by squalid living conditions and a severe lack of adequate sanitation or hygiene facilities, even amid the heightened health risks due to Covid-19.7 The situation in the other Greek Hotspots is similarly untenable and repeated warnings8 have remained unanswered for over four years.
We welcome the transfer of 406 unaccompanied children from Lesvos to the Greek mainland, with financial support from the European Commission.9 It demonstrates how swiftly transfers can be co-ordinated when the political will exists. We commend the Norwegian government’s commitment to relocating 50 individuals10 and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’ call for EU-wide relocation from Greece.11 We urge EU governments to follow with concrete commitments and action without delay. The positive example set by relocations carried out by the coalition of willing Member States since March 202012 shows
that relocations can be carried out safely and successfully for everyone involved. Member States, EU institutions, relevant EU and UN agencies with support from civil society should now share experiences, expertise and resources to ensure further states join the coalition. The undersigned organisations stand ready to support these efforts, to bring the men, women and children stranded in Greece to safety, and thereby uphold our European values of human rights and human dignity.
The EU Hotspots as an EU Migration Management Approach
The latest events prove once again the failure of the Hotspots as the default EU migration management approach. We call on the European Parliament to investigate the role that the EU and Member States played in the failed management of Moria. Moreover, we urge the European Commission, the German EU Council Presidency and Member States to treat the horrifying images of Moria burning as unequivocal proof of the tragic human cost13 of an EU asylum and migration system based on containment and deterrence policies. We strongly recommend the European Commission to take these events into account with a view to the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, and ensure the same policies do not inform the proposals for ‘processing centres’ at EU borders. It is vital that the New Pact is taken as an opportunity to present a new start rather than a replication of past errors.
1‘Everything is burning’: Refugees flee as fire guts Moria camp
2 Κουμουτσάκος: Σε προσωρινούς χώρους διαμονής οι 3.000 άστεγοι της Μόριας – Καμία ανθρώπινη απώλεια
3 UNHCR offers support as large fire destroys asylum center in Moria / Commissioner calls on the Greek authorities to provide adequate support to all those affected by the fire in Moria
4 Together with relevant EU and UN agencies and in cooperation with civil society organisations.
5 UNHCR urges Greece to address overcrowded reception centres on Aegean islands
6 Greece and the EU must move asylum seekers to safety / see also: Urgent Call to Action: EU Member States ShouldCommit to the Emergency Relocation of Unaccompanied Childrenfromthe Greek Islands
7 MSF forced to close COVID-19 centre on Lesbos
8 Greece: Refugee “Hotspots” Unsafe, Unsanitary
9 EU to fund transfer of Moria’s vulnerable refugees to mainland after fire
10 Huge fire guts Greece’s infamous Moria refugee camp
11 Maas nach dem Brand in Moria: Flüchtlinge sollen in EU verteilt werden
12 Migration: Relocation of unaccompanied children from Greece to Portugal and Finland | EU Commission Press