The new EU migration pact includes more camps like Moria, even though they are at the heart of a failed policy. That needs to change. A guest post.
Manos Moschopoulos is Director for Migration and Inclusion in Europe at the Open Society Foundations
Even by the bleak standards of the Greek reception system, the fire in the Moria refugee camp is one unprecedented humanitarian disaster. A disaster that was predictable.
With the aim of maintaining the EU-Turkey agreement, the Greek governments have prevented refugees from continuing their journey in recent years. As a result, facilities on the Greek islands are extremely overcrowded. The Moria camp, which was designed for fewer than 3,000 people, housed an estimated 13,000 people, perhaps more. Additional Covid-19 restrictions meant people were stranded in dire and dangerous conditions.
It is still unclear how the fire started. In fact, more fires broke out last night. We may not know who lit the flame, but we know the causes: a dirty warehouse with more than four times as many people as it can safely hold; a native population bearing the burden of deadly ineffective EU policies; legitimate concerns about Covid-19 in the camp and on the island; and a toxic cocktail of nationalism, conspiracy and scare tactics. All it took was a match.
At the moment, the top priority is to provide shelter, food and water for an estimated more than 10,000 homeless refugees. The Greek government seems to believe it will be able to rehabilitate Moria by cleaning up the charred remains of the existing structures and putting up tents.
She is ruling out the relocation of refugees to the mainland as she fears that it will spread Covid-19. Locals on the island today put up road blocks to prevent rebuilding. Your resistance is understandable; they have been promised for years that they will find a solution to the situation.
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It is likely that most refugees will remain homeless for long periods of time and sleep on the streets and sidewalks, as most did the previous night. Worryingly, the government appeared to downplay the number of people in need, claiming that only 3,500 refugees were left homeless by the fire. And that despite their own officials claiming that at least 8,000 homes in Moria have been destroyed.
The existing tensions between locals, migrants and NGOs on the island have increased in the past months and days due to the Covid-19 cases within Moria. These tensions are likely to intensify in the days ahead as the government adopts – or even intensifies – malicious representations in an attempt to shift the blame on to others.
Many have pointed out how happy it is that no one was killed in the fire. Yet Moria has been killing people for years. Self-harm and suicide are common; a baby died of dehydration last year; Knife wounds, attacks, open sewage, inadequate medical care are the order of the day. Dozens died in Moria.
There will be more such disasters
Yet one wonders if there had been deaths from this dramatic fire, would the political response be stronger? Would Europe stagger forward, like after Aylan Kurdi, the boy who washed up on the Turkish coast five years ago, with the screams for “never again”? Is this the grotesque price it takes to act?
If the current asylum system remains unchanged, we will continue to experience disasters like this one. It doesn’t have to be like that. First we have to close these camps. The new EU migration pact includes even more camps like Moria, despite all indications that they are at the core of a failed policy.
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Not only do these camps fail to comply with our human rights standards, which undermines the EU’s humanitarian position, but they also cannot deter people who are desperate to flee war and poverty. The Greek government had declared that it would turn the camps into prisons, which would pose an even greater danger to those seeking refuge in Europe.
Cities and regions across Europe have offered to resettle refugees from the camps. In Germany the state of North Rhine-Westphalia has agreed to accept 1,000 refugees displaced by the fire. There are others like Brandenburg, Thuringia and Berlin. This was preceded by a long nationwide campaign by the municipalities to accept refugees from the Greek islands, a proposal that has so far been blocked by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, which has to give the green light for every resettlement.
The atmosphere in Greece will become even more toxic
More voices should join those who call on German and other governments to allow humanitarian aid. Cities outside Germany have also offered to take in refugees and asylum seekers from Greece – in particular around 119 Dutch municipalities. The desire and the infrastructure for an evacuation are in place; they just need to be expanded and made permanent through a resettlement program.
Without appropriate EU action, I also fear what will happen to my own country, Greece. The political atmosphere is already deeply toxic. Yesterday, when the first fire was still burning, officials from the Ministry of Migration Policy informed journalists that “foreign NGOs” were responsible for the fire. The government spokesman then claimed the fire was not an accident and refused to rule out Turkey’s involvement. I fear that the chance for a consensus and for a sensible policy is disappearing. Some now call Greece the Hungary of the Mediterranean. If the EU cannot agree on asylum policy, it may be able to agree that one Hungarian in the EU is completely sufficient.
Video: Fire in Moria – Europe is looking for solutions (Euronews)
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Alarm: Stricter corona rules in Europe and Israel
In France, the government has announced new measures against the corona virus, but has waived nationwide curfews and restaurant and bar closings. One focus is on the tests: Waiting times for nurses, people with symptoms and those who have been in contact with them should be shortened by special consultation hours in laboratories. In addition, additional staff at the state health authorities ensure better tracking of infection chains. In addition, the quarantine will be shortened to one week. The authorities of the particularly affected districts of Marseille, Bordeaux and the overseas department of Guadeloupe are to submit separate proposals for measures. On Friday there were over 9,400 new infections in France. The number of intensive care patients rose to the level at the end of June. Great Britain: Number of infected persons over 85 increases significantly In Great Britain too, in view of the increasing number of new infections, the authorities are calling for compliance with the distance rules. As in France, younger people in particular are affected, but the number of infected people over 85 is increasing significantly. There are different convention limits in different parts of the UK. The strictest rules apply in England, where from Monday only six people from different households are allowed to gather inside and outside. Austria is also tightening the measures: From Monday, mask requirements will apply again in retail, in authorities and in schools. In addition, the regulations for events and catering are being tightened. An improvement is not to be expected anytime soon, said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Israel is about to return to exit restrictions Israel is about to return to exit restrictions. If a three-phase plan decided by the Corona cabinet is approved by the government, schools, restaurants and shops could close again and freedom of movement could be severely restricted. On Thursday, the number of new infections every day was a record high for the fourth day in a row, with 4,146 new cases. The biggest problem child in Europe is Spain. Over the past two weeks, an average of 8,000 new infections have been reported every day. According to the Minister of Health, 100,000 people are tested every day, significantly more than in April.
What is important this Friday: Euronews in the evening on September 11th.
🙃 good evening! 🇦🇹 In Austria, Chancellor Kurz gives a gloomy outlook in view of the rising corona numbers. The tightened rules that have now been announced will be retained “at least over the winter”. 😷 Is the Covid-19 situation in the neighboring Czech Republic out of control? The number of new infections has reached a new high. 🌎 Germany and France are ready to accept minors from the burned down Moria camp. But what will happen to the several thousand adults who continue to wander around on Lesbos. * Lukashenko wants to meet Putin on the Black Sea – officially it is about the strategic partnership between Belarus and Russia. 🙁 Italy discusses racism: why did 21 year old Willy have to die? 😷 This article was MOST CLICKED on our internet this Friday. Why can everyday masks work like a vaccine against Covid-19? 🖤 ”Never forget” – 19 years ago today: remembering September 11, 2001. 🎥 “And tomorrow the whole world” – this is the name of the film that is considered to be the German hope at the Venice Festival. ☀️🦋🐛 all the best to you! 🦎🐾🌤
No improvement in sight: mask requirement applies again
Due to a high level of new Covid 19 infections, Austria is tightening its corona measures again. From Monday, mask requirements will apply again in retail, in authorities and schools and in all places where customer contact takes place. In addition, the regulations for events and catering are being tightened, so food and drinks may only be reserved at seats in indoor areas. At events outside, only 3000 visitors are allowed instead of the current 10,000. Inside, only 1,500 instead of 5,000 guests are permitted, and only 50 guests without assigned seats. Children are required to wear a mask outside of their classroom at school. He does not assume that the situation will improve in the coming months, said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz at a press conference in Vienna: “Public life takes place less outdoors. It can therefore be assumed that we will at least need these measures over the winter and we cannot promise that other measures will not be necessary. The aim is to prevent a lockdown. ” Lowest warning level in most regions From Thursday to Friday, 580 more people in Austria were infected with the corona virus. The day before it was over 600. Two weeks ago the numbers were about half as high. At the height of the crisis in March, there were over 1000. However, the Corona traffic light introduced last week rates most regions away from the metropolitan areas with the lowest level green.