“The fire that destroyed most of the Registration and Identification Centre of Moria and the informal settlements surrounding it, on the Greek island of Lesvos on Tuesday night has dramatically worsened the living conditions of more than 12 000 asylum seekers and migrants, including more than 4,000 children, who are held in a centre whose capacity is less than 2,800 people,” said today the Commissioner.
“The prompt intervention of the local authorities and firefighters helped avoid a tragedy. However, the situation remains tense, both as concerns residents of the hotspot and the local population living nearby.
I call on the Greek authorities to provide adequate shelter to all those affected by the fire as a matter of urgency, ensuring in particular that they have access to health care, sanitation, psychological support and food. People infected with COVID-19 should be afforded special attention and provided with the required medical support.
It is also important that the Greek authorities at all levels ensure the protection of asylum seekers and migrants from attacks and refrain from rhetoric that could heighten tensions.
The situation on other Greek islands which host refugees, asylum seekers and migrants is not much different from Lesvos, with the risk that there too the situation might further degenerate. As I and many others have repeatedly stated, this appears inevitable if the authorities in Greece and other Council of Europe member states continue the approach taken in recent years. While the short-term focus will have to be on dealing with the humanitarian needs of those affected, the incident in Moria shows the urgency of fundamentally rethinking this approach, which has led to the overcrowded, inhumane and completely unsustainable situation in Moria and elsewhere on the Aegean islands. Accommodating asylum seekers and migrants on ships or in other emergency shelters pending the refurbishment of Moria, and then simply continuing with business as usual cannot be the solution.
Major problems, including the containment of asylum seekers and migrants on the Aegean islands, the lack of reception capacity both on the islands and on the mainland, and flawed integration and asylum policies have remained unresolved by the Greek authorities. At the same time, the lack of support from other member states to Greece in terms of relocation and, more broadly the lack of European solidarity is also responsible for the catastrophic situation that has been exposed for years by so many international and national bodies. This is not only a Greek problem. It is a European one, too.
There is no time left. Greece needs concrete and substantial steps from other Council of Europe member states. Despite many local governments in those member states having expressed their readiness to help, too little has been done at the level of central governments. I welcome indications of some member states significantly scaling up their relocation efforts, but this must be done urgently and not just by a few states.
Greece and its partners must finally fix the structural problems of a migratory policy that has caused so much unnecessary human suffering. The more they wait to do so, the more likely it is that further tragedies will unfold.”