A year after the Moria camp fire in Lesbos, the most important in Europe, Greece is proud to have organized the arrival and reception of immigrants to its islands, but also raises criticism.
At dawn on September 9, 2020, the Moria camp, known for its congested living conditions and inter-ethnic violence, was destroyed by two successive fires.
No one died, but the spark of the chaotic deportation of more than 12,000 homeless asylum seekers exacerbated the anguish of angry islanders on the roads of Lesvos.
Greek Immigration Minister Nodis Mitarachi immediately accused the “asylum seekers” of starting a fire.
According to several witnesses, an argument erupted over the refusal of about 200 immigrants to be isolated after a positive test for the corona virus or after contact with an infected person.
Six young Afghans were sentenced to four to ten years in prison and two minors to five years in prison for arson.
Mustafa Hossaini firmly believes his younger brother is innocent. Mahdi, 18, was granted asylum, he told AFP. “He was coming, he was free to leave the island. Why would he burn Moriah?” He adds.
The 23-year-old refugee, who lives in Greek territory, argues that six Afghans were unjustly condemned by a single Pashtun witness because they are Hazaras, a minority ethnic group in Afghanistan.
– New Camp: A Temporary Solution? –
The destruction of the Moria camp led to the creation of the hastily built camp Mavruni on the former military base, which, according to Lesvos residents, was flooded last winter.
Mireille Girard, a representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Greece, acknowledges that a lot of work has been done to improve infrastructure that was initially unsustainable. “The standards are much better than Moriah and better than last year,” he told AFP.
“It’s not a lasting solution, we have to get out of tent camps. No one has to spend the winter in tents. A tent is temporary. Tents after a fire, yes, but a year later?” She asks.
The head of the UNHCR in Greece has lamented the two alternative “human dimension” infrastructure that provides decent living conditions for vulnerable immigrants in Lesbos, in the months following Moria Hell.
On March 30, 2021, Eva Johansson, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, announced a 6 276 million European fund in Lesbos for Turkey, including Lesbos, for new reception centers for migrants on five islands in the Aegean Sea.
The new Lesbos camp was to be delivered before winter, but work had not yet begun. However, one of the Samos is set to open at the end of September.
– Tightening up the migration policy –
Despite the delay, authorities welcome the significant devastation of camps on the islands. In Lesbos, only 3,752 immigrants remain, according to official figures, up from nearly 13,000 a year ago.
Hundreds of asylum seekers have been relocated to the mainland as attendance has plummeted.
“The 84% reduction in attendance and the 79% decay of island camps allows us to look to the future with confidence,” the Immigration Minister stressed in mid-August.
But humanitarian organizations criticize the systematic use of the rejection of immigrants to Turkey.
“A year after the catastrophic fire at the Moria camp and its aftermath, Greece is firmly opposed to refugees and their rights,” Epamindas Fermakis, co-founder of the voluntary charity Human Rights 360, told AFP.
The Greek Conservative government has always denied the allegations.
European Human Rights Commissioner Tunza Mijadovic on Friday condemned a bill to expedite the influx of migrants to Turkey, amid fears that the arrival of refugees from Afghanistan would send a new wave to Turkey.
During the debate on this speech in Parliament, Mr. Mitarachi reaffirmed that Greece would “never again be the gateway to the European continent.”