Last updated on September 10, 2020
“What is Moria? It is where Europe’s ideals—solidarity, human rights, a safe haven for victims of war and violence—dissolve in a tangle of bureaucracy, indifference, and lack of political will. It is the normalization of a humanitarian crisis. It is the moral failure of Europe”. Rachel Donadio
Over twelve thousand people had to flee a fire that burned down their overcrowded refugee camp overnight. They ran into the olive groves that are near the camp for safety. Like California, Mediterranean climates are hot and dry and vulnerable to fire. A warming atmosphere is making these fires worse. According to eyewitnesses, Moria camp was totally destroyed and the desperately poor and powerless have lost whatever meager belongings they had.
Forty percent of Europe's refugees that arrive by sea go to the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea. Refugees flee violence and unlivable climate conditions and arrive from Africa, Syria, and Afghanistan.
Fires have threatened many of Greece’s archaeological sites as well, but the destruction of Moria should be a wakeup call for humanity as the climate unravels before our very eyes. Humanity, most of us anyway, won’t wake up though, unless and until it happens to them.
“First there was a dispute at the Covid19 station in the camp which spread to the entire area during the night. Security forces used tear gas,” the statement said. “A large part of the dwellings burned down. The homeless people fled into the surrounding olive groves.”
Axel Steier, Co-founder of Mission Life, said he warned that the situation would “escalate” over the camp's poor conditions, calling the lockdown measures “the final straw.”
“The people in Moria are exposed to extreme psychological stress. The lockdown of the camp has now been the final straw,” said Steier. “The refugees in Moria are not treated as humans.
“Among other things, we asked the (German) federal government again and again to evacuate all people from the Greek camps. But hardly anything has happened,” Steier added.
The Moria encampment extends out of the main UN camp into olive groves where thousands live in makeshift wooden huts they built out of wooden pellets and tarpaulin, hammered down with nails. The inhabitants say they wait for hours to use a bathroom, and sometimes spend an entire day queuing for food.
Lesbos was put under a state of emergency for four months for public health reasons, the civil protection service said, which allows it to mobilize all forces to support the island and asylum seekers.Mytilini mayor Stratis Kytelis said migrants would have to be moved or housed on ships to prevent the spread of COVID-19.“The situation was out of control,” policeman Argyris Syvris told Open TV, adding that police had been forced to release some 200 people who were due to be repatriated to their countries.Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis held an emergency cabinet meeting on the situation, and the migration and interior ministers headed to Lesbos.Government spokesman Stelios Petsas told state TV ERT those living in the Moria camp would not be allowed to leave the island due to the coronavirus outbreak.EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said the European Union had agreed to fund the immediate transfer of 400 unaccompanied children and teenagers to the Greek mainland.German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas described the fires as “a humanitarian disaster”, and said EU member states should be ready to take in some of the refugees from the camp.Lesbos was on the front line of a mass movement of refugees and migrants to Europe in 2015-2016.
MORIA, Greece—From the olive grove just outside the high cement wall—one topped with spirals of razor wire, enclosing one of Europe’s most infamous holding pens for asylum seekers—you can see all the way clear to the Aegean Sea, gray-blue in the distance. It’s a straight shot across the water to Turkey, just six miles away at the narrowest stretch, an ancient Dardanelles trade route.
Moria, on the Greek island of Lesbos, is a symbolic place—a hinge between the Middle East and Europe, the eye of the needle through which migrants must pass as they travel from east to west, a pressure point between Istanbul and Brussels. It is where the collateral damage of contemporary history—Afghanistan, Syria, Turkey—crosses the threshold into Europe. Moria is where geopolitics becomes European politics becomes national politics. Every new arrival here could one day translate into rising poll numbers for right-wing parties across the Continent, parties divided by language and culture that find common ground in wanting to block these humans from entering.
The United States’ border with Mexico is not the only immigration flash point in the West. What Juárez is to America, Moria is to Europe. The arrivals here have come by boat from across the Mediterranean, now the most dangerous border on Earth.
From up close, Moria is a chaotic mass of humanity. Built to house about 3,000 people, it is now home to more than 13,000 (including an estimated 1,000 unaccompanied minors)—more than it has ever held. They wait, sometimes for more than a year, for the slow wheels of Greek bureaucracy to turn, to review their asylum applications, to send them to the mainland for a decision. Winter is approaching, and many of these 13,000 live outside the camp’s walls, in tents pitched on the surrounding hillsides, without electricity or running water, which are provided only inside the camp. NGOs, which lease the land for the tents, help run basic services and report atrocious conditions. Fights break out in the hours-long food lines. Women are afraid to use the toilets for fear of harassment. In September, a woman died in a deadly fire.
How did it come to this? Because Europe allowed it to come to this.
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