Lesbos Refugee Camp: The Crisis at the EU Border
Four years after the signing of the EU-Turkey agreement, the situation of refugees in Greek islands is worse than ever.
The EU border regime dictates that asylum seekers must stay here until their claims are processed. The new right-wing government does not allow refugees to be moved to camps on the mainland to await resolution, which has triggered the population of the islands.
The refugee camp in Moria, designed for 3,500 people, houses more than 20,000. The usual overcrowding, unhealthiness and insecurity are compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, producing a truly dangerous scenario for the lives of thousands of people.
Most of the refugees have no place in the official refugee camp, so they live in self-built plastic tents outside the official site. For women it is even worse. They don't even dare to go to the toilet without fear of being assaulted.
In mid-February, the Greek government began construction of five new refugee camps on the islands. Local residents, enraged at Athens and Brussels, paralysed the entire archipelago with several days of general strike. They took to the streets en masse, and engaged in fierce clashes with riot police the government sent in from Athens. Tired of the neglect by Brussels and Athens, the residents of the islands are going to obstruct at all costs construction of new refugee camps or the expansion of existing ones.
On February 29th, Turkey announced that it would no longer prevent refugees from leaving its territory, as a way of pressuring the European Union to support its war in Syria. The impacts of this decision were felt immediately on the beaches of Greece.
Immediately after the announcement, the number of boats with refugees increased significantly. Local residents launched roadblocks to prevent newly arrived refugees from being transferred to Moria refugee camp. Organized groups of racists tried to prevent the landing of refugees through insults and threats.
The extreme right is trying to exploit politically the local discontent by carrying out attacks on refugees, humanitarian workers and journalists. What once was an example of solidarity land has become a place where volunteers helping refugees are afraid to be recognized.
redfish spoke to refugees, residents, activists, lawyers and authorities about their needs, their demands, their fears and their hopes.