Greek authorities assured on Sunday that a new camp, intended to receive asylum seekers on the streets after the destruction of a fire in the huge Moria camp, would be ready “in five days”.
Since the Moria camp went up in smoke, asylum seekers have been on the streets. In the run-up to the protests, the Greek government decided to speed up reconstruction and promised on Sunday 13 September that a new camp would be set up over the next five days, namely 18 September.
“In five days, the operation will be completed. Everyone will be installed in the new camp,” Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi assured, visiting Lesvos for two days to coordinate work. Like the old camp, the new one should hold 12,000 seats.
The authorities have indicated that they will impose restrictions on migrants from this camp due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Notis Mitarachi estimated that “200 people” among asylum seekers could be infected with the new coronavirus. He nevertheless emphasized that the camp would only be closed for “twelve hours” and that the migrants could go out for the rest of the day.
Minister responsible for migration Notis Mitarachi announces that the new camp is ready to welcome asylum seekers. Its capacity will reach 12,000 seats in the next few days. “We hope they come voluntarily,” the minister replied. pic.twitter.com/IHvWxbKlCG
– Alexandros Kottis (@alexandros_kts) September 13, 2020
State of emergency in Lesbos
Since the fires on Tuesday and Wednesday destroyed the Moria registration and identification center without causing any damage, a state of emergency has been declared in Lesbos. Thousands of families sleep on the tarmac, sidewalks or in the fields.
The Moria camp was set up in 2015 to limit the number of migrants from neighboring Turkey to Europe. More than 12,000 people lived there, including 4,000 children.
In recent years, the lack of hygiene and congestion in the Moria camp has been criticized by NGOs, which regularly call on the Greek authorities to transfer the most vulnerable asylum seekers to the mainland.
The fear of “a prison”
However, the construction of a new camp makes migrants skeptical. Hundreds of asylum seekers refuse to be registered and come in, saying they are tired of waiting in Moria for months, a few years, to be transferred to facilities in Greece.
On Saturday and Sunday, asylum seekers demonstrated that they had placards proclaiming “Freedom!” or “We want to leave Moria”. Protesters threw stones at police, who responded with tear gas.
Many migrants are also afraid of being confined again due to the coronavirus epidemic and no one wants to relive what they experienced in Moria: lack of hygiene, violence and almost daily fights between different ethnic groups.
Migrant camps across Greece, including Moria, have been restricted since mid-March due to Covid-19. Many NGOs and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have tried containment measures in “discriminatory” campsand “excessive”, that the Greek government demarcated the country in early May.