Thousands of Refugees in Limbo as Greece Mulls Moria Camp’s Future



Refugees create a makeshift home using blankets in a field next to the Moria camp. Credit: Thanasis Voulgarakis/Greek Reporter

Greek authorities are struggling to find a solution for the thousands of migrants and refugees who remain homeless after the Moria camp at Lesvos — the largest in Greece –was almost totally destroyed by this week’s fires.

As thousands slept rough in the fields and roads, in supermarket parking lots and even cemeteries, for a third night in a row, government officials are trying to cope with the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Officials and aid workers started distributing tents, food and water as it emerged that the 35 Moria residents who earlier this week had tested positive for Covid-19 and had been due to be transferred to a separate facility were missing.

On Wednesday, nine of the 35 were found, but they too then disappeared again in the chaos after the second fire.

Authorities said that they plan to set up large tents in an area near Moria that would provide temporary accommodation for some. The priority would be to shelter families with small children.

However, local government officials and groups of citizens are opposing these plans and propose that the asylum seekers should be transferred to Athens and the mainland.

They also oppose any plans for the rebuilding of the camp. The mayor of Mytilene, Stratis Kytelis, stated that he will continue to work with all his might to effect the final closure of Moria, insisting that “no migrant structure in should stay on Lesvos.”

Unaccompanied children

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Thursday the launch of a German-French initiative for the reception of unaccompanied refugee minors who had lived at Moria prior to the devastating fires that destroyed the camp.

As thousands of asylum seekers spent a third night in the open on the island of Lesvos, Merkel told a panel discussion in Berlin that “as a preliminary step we are offering to Greece to accept refugees who are minors – other steps must follow.”

The European Union must “finally assume more shared responsibility” for migration policy, Merkel said. ”Germany and France will surely join, and I hope other EU member states join too,” she added.