Almost a week after the fire that ravaged a migrating camp on the Greek island of Lesvos, Berlin announced its intention to take care of 1,500 homeless migrants. Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday night that the decision was “manageable and justified” for Germany.
More than 1,500 migrants from the Greek islands, including Lesbos, will be welcomed in Germany. These asylum seekers have been sleeping homeless since the Moria camp, which began almost a week ago.
Greek Civil Protection Minister Michalis Chryssohoïdis announced that five immigrants had been arrested in the investigation of the fire in this camp, which is worth 12,000 refugees in unhealthy conditions, and that an identified sixth suspect was on the run.
“I refuse to let the EU look down on immigration”
Traveling to Lesbos, where he said he was “touched” by this “dramatic” and “complex” situation, European Council President Charles Michel urged Europe to “mobilize” and “get involved.” To “seriously address the migration challenge”.
“I refuse to let the EU lower its eyes on immigration” because “Greece’s borders are Europe’s borders”, he insisted.
Following the “brutal incident” in the Moria fire, he appealed for a “fair, strong and effective response” from the European Union and demanded “more partnerships with third countries”.
Until now, Europeans’ responses had been very discreet: ten countries had agreed to take care of 400 unaccompanied minors, including France, who should take in about a hundred.
But Germany “guaranteed that 1553 family members” recognized as refugees by Greek authorities would “leave the islands” in the Aegean Sea, according to German Rector Olaf Scholz on Tuesday.
“Open the doors”
Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday night that her decision to welcome these migrants was a “manageable and justified solution” for Germany.
However, she said she was disappointed at the lack of a coordinated European solution. This “is not a sign of the capacity to act and of Europe’s values”, she lamented, according to participants in a meeting of her Conservative parliamentary group in Berlin.
In Lesbos, since the fire that ravaged the Moria camp, which was built five years ago at the height of the migration crisis, thousands of asylum seekers have slept on sidewalks, in fields or in abandoned buildings, with little food and access to water in a glowing heat.
In a tent, where her eight family members have lived since the Moria fire, 21-year-old Samira Ahmedi, who arrived from Afghanistan a year ago, is fighting to bring back tears.
“Please,” she shouts to European countries, “open the doors. We are human, we are not animals.”
“Without shower or mattress”
By his side, Simine, 22, does not want to enter the new temporary camp, which was quickly built by the authorities after the fire. “There is no food, no water,” she explains, “no one wants to go to the new camp.”
The conditions are deplorable there “without shower or mattress”, according to testimonies collected by AFP.
“The entry of asylum seekers into the new camp is non-negotiable,” the Minister of Civil Protection told the media in Lesbos.
Just under 800 migrants have so far agreed to settle there, according to information from the ministry.
Most migrants refuse to do so for fear of not being able to leave the island once inside.
For Vany Bikembo, a 25-year-old mechanic who arrived a year ago from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the temporary camp, “over there, it’s a second hell” after Moria.
In the port of Mytilene, the island’s capital, about 200 islanders demonstrated early in the evening to explain that they refused to see a new migrant camp open not far from the ruins of Moria.
Normalization of their situation
“The islands do not want a concentration camp, neither open nor closed,” read a banner held by protesters in the majority of the Communist Party.
The head of the North Aegean, Kostas Mountzouris, one of the staunchest opponents of the government’s plan to set up a closed camp in Lesbos, called on entrepreneurs and professionals to rally to demand a “normalization” of the situation and “removal of migrants from the island”.
For several months, the Greek Conservative government has been planning the establishment of a closed center in Lesbos to dismantle the Moria megastructure. Now that it is being destroyed, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has confirmed the forthcoming reconstruction of a camp and called for a more active commitment from the European Union.
Until 23 September, the European Commission has presented its long-awaited project to reform migration policy in the EU.