Lesbos refugees distrust new government camp after Moria fire

By Ingrid Haack

Athens, Sep 14 (efe-epa).- More than 12,000 migrants left homeless after a fire at Moria refugee camp have resisted being resettled at a temporary government site, officials said Monday.

Five days have passed since a blaze ripped through Europe’s largest refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, which was at four times its official capacity and home to around 13,000 people.

The new camp Kara Tepe is located two kilometers from the island capital Mytilene but has not been a popular option despite government assurances that it will be better than sleeping on the streets.

Greek minister for immigration and asylum Notis Mitarakis said 5,000 beds have been installed at the site and that by the middle of this week there will be enough for everyone.

There are currently no sanitary facilities or running water at the new camp but a ministry spokesman told Efe they will be installed.

Moria’s former residents want to leave the island and see the new camp as an extension of the horrendous conditions they have been subjected to so far.

The ministry spokesman said the slowness in transferring people to the new site, around 800 have moved there in the first 48 hours, is due to reluctance from the refugees.

“The registration process and the necessary Covid-19 tests are going smoothly, the problem is the reluctance of many migrants,” he said from Lesbos in a telephone conversation with Efe.

So far 14 positive cases have been detected among those who used to reside in Moria.

Mitarakis tried to put pressure on them by stating that only those who register and enter the new camp will get their asylum applications processed and the possibility of ever leaving the island.

He said that from next Monday the island’s asylum service will begin to function normally.

Many of the migrants on Lesbos came from Afghanistan and Pakistan and have a low chance of being recognized as refugees.

There is also a lack of reliable information with rumours and false details rife within the community.

Asked if the government plans to inform the refugees of the plans for the camp and that they will only be able to opt out of the island if they enter it, the Migration Ministry assured Efe today that “it is planned” that “today” the corresponding instructions will be distributed among the migrants.

Christina Psarra, of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) told Efe that their situation is deteriorating by the day and that many previously healthy people have developed health problems.

“Now we are seeing the first consequences of the tragedy of the fire,” she said.

“There are infections, dermatological problems, deterioration of mental health, many are at the limit of their strength… there are many pregnant women and many babies.

“There is no access to drinking water, nor to sanitary facilities. They don’t have kitchens and can’t even prepare a bottle.”

Many patients who had been receiving treatment for heart problems or diabetes now wander the streets and are unattended.

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