EuObserver: Greece closes humane camp for refugees, sends them to Moria

The last of the two model refugee camps on the Greek island of Lesbos is closing, with people there being sent to dire conditions in Moria.

Up until last month, Kara Tepe 1 camp was home to around 1,000 people, including families and others with vulnerabilities.

The camp had been praised as humane, run, in part, by NGOs, and where asylum seekers and refugees were able to tend to small gardens.

But now all have been forced to leave, with over 500 bused to the mud-ridden temporary facility of Moria, overseen by the Greek state.

“Moria is not set up to accommodate them,” said Raphael Shilhav, a policy expert at Oxfam International on Monday (3 May). It has no access for people with disabilities, he said.

The EU’s designated hotspot Moria, which had turned into a sprawling ghetto, burned down seven months ago.

Its replacement is a temporary facility known as Mavrovouni, but also dubbed ‘Moria 2.0.’

Basics like hot water and toilets remain an issue for the some 7,000 people in Moria 2.0.

“The problem is that the majority of people in Kara Tepe were vulnerable, so they needed specific reception conditions,” said Shilhav.

Similar comments were made by Doctors without Borders (MSF).

It said some 400 people in Kara Tepe are vulnerable, including men, women and children.

“It is devastating to see the health of our patients get worse because they are forced to return to unsafe accommodation,” said an MSF doctor, quoted by Italian news agency, Ansa.

The UN Refugee Agency had demanded the Greek government refrain from transferring the people from Kara Tepe until a new permanent camp is completed later this year.

“It is a decision of the government to return the municipal site back to the local authorities,” he told EUobserver, noting some Kara Tepe residents were refugees.

He said the Greek authorities are expected to provide the recognised refugees with documents, possibly relocating them to other parts of Greece.

Meanwhile, the UN agency has since moved some 30 container units from Kara Tepe to Moria 2.0, he said.

“Our goal is to move all the containers over,” he said.

Greece had also late last year shut down a community-run refugee shelter known as Pikpa, described by one former resident as a sanctuary.

Lead contamination

Moria 2.0 is perched on a former shooting range at the edge of the island and exposed to harsh weather conditions.

Parts of the zone are contaminated with high levels of lead. Out of the 12 soil samples taken by the Greek authorities, one registered 2,233 milligrams of lead per kilogram of soil. For residential areas in Greece, the threshold is 500 milligrams per kilogram.

In January, the European Commission said the Greeks had informed them that they would prevent further lead exposure in the area.

“They will also take new sampling after they have put in place these safety measures,” Beate Gminder, a senior EU commission official, told MEPs end of January.

But last week, around 50 MEPs in a letter to the commission, said not enough is being done.

They noted that only three of the 12 samples were taken in an area known to be highly contaminated.

They have since asked the European Commission to ensure that the Greek authorities move people out of the lead-contaminated zones.

“It is well known that pregnant women and children are those at the most of risk when living on and playing with soil and dust contaminated by lead,” they said.