Groups Call on Greece to Ensure Safety of Refugees After Devastating Fire



Hundreds of refugees sleep on the road. Credit: @th_voulgarakis/Twitter

Moria, once home to over 12,000 refugees, was completely destroyed by fires  early Wednesday morning. Only meant to house around 2,800 migrants, Moria is notorious for its overcrowded, and some argue unsafe, conditions.

Shocking scenes of migrants, including unaccompanied minors, women with children, the sick, and the elderly, fleeing the blaze and later sleeping along roads inspired calls to action around the world.

As cases of the coronavirus were confirmed at the camp, where social distancing was nearly impossible to follow, officials feared a widespread and deadly outbreak among migrants, with many international groups urging immediate action.

Tensions rose in the camp on Tuesday, as the 35 confirmed cases, and their families, were reluctant to go into quarantine as ordered.

Some claim the fires were started by refugees who were involved in this conflict.

Others believe far-right extremists started the fires, while others blame local Greeks.

The deadly blaze spread quickly due to high temperatures and strong winds on the island. Soon after the fires began, the entirety of the camp was reduced to ashes, and tens of thousands of migrants were left without a place to sleep.

In response to this tragedy, international groups have issued the following press release urging the Greek government to take immediate action by housing refugees on mainland Greece:

Greece: Transfer Refugees and Asylum seekers to Safety on Mainland
Respect for Human Rights should Prevail over Use of Force

Following yesterday’s fire in Moria, on Lesvos, which destroyed the Reception and Identification Centre, 31 civil society organizations call on the Greek Government to immediately provide assistance to people who lost their shelter. Those affected, among them many children and at-risk groups, must be carefully transferred to safety on the mainland.

The transfer of at-risk groups, including unaccompanied children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, people with medical and mental health conditions, and older people should be prioritized. People who tested positive for Covid-19 should be given safe housing for the quarantine period, healthcare, and hospitalization if necessary.

Moving people from Lesvos to mainland Greece requires finding urgent solutions to address the fact that many current housing facilities for refugees and asylum seekers are at full capacity. We urge the Greek authorities to work on a coherent plan that maximises all available resources including those from the EU and we renew our call to European leaders to share the responsibility for the reception and support of asylum seekers now more than ever.

In these difficult times, it is of outmost importance that respect for human rights is at the centre of the response to the fire at Moria, and that authorities do not resort to use of force or inflammatory language, but take appropriate steps to de-escalate any risk of violence.”

ActionAid Hellas
Amnesty International
Boat Refugee Foundation
CRWI Diotima
ECHO100PLUS
ELIX
Equal Rights Beyond Borders
Fenix – Humanitarian Legal Aid
Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)
Hellenic League for Human Rights
Hellenic Platform for Development (Ελληνική Πλατφόρμα για την Ανάπτυξη)
Help Refugees
Hias Greece
HumanRights360
Humanitarian Legal Aid
Human Rights Watch
International Rescue Committee (IRC)
INTERSOS Hellas
Legal Centre Lesvos
Médecins Sans Frontières
Melissa
Network for Children’s Rights
Omnes
Refugee Legal Support (RLS)
Refugee Rights Europe (RRE)
Refugee Support Aegean (RSA)
Refugee Trauma Initiative
Solidarity Now
Symbiosis-School of Political Studies in Greece
Terre des hommes Hellas
The HOME Project

Source: The HOME Project