Greens MEP calls for urgent action to help migrants made homeless after Moria fire

Speaking direct from Lesbos on Tuesday, Erik Marquardt said that many of the 13,000 migrants and refugees have been forced to sleep rough on the streets after a devastating fire tore through the Moria camp.
Syrian refugees

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

15 Sep 2020

The Moria camp, which hosted more than 12,000 people - four times the amount it was supposed to - was destroyed in the huge blaze on September 8.

Erik Marquardt, who is on a fact-finding trip to the island and was speaking to reporters via a video link, said thousands of migrants had been left without shelter and that the local authorities had warned that some asylum seekers who tested positive for COVID-19 could spread the virus.

Marquardt, Vice-Chair of Parliament's Development Committee, told reporters that thousands still on the island were living on the streets with no electricity and limited access to water.

He said that plans for a new camp on the island had been put on hold over fears that it may lead to a spread in the Coronavirus.

Lesbos and other islands off the Turkish coast have been among the main entry points for migrants into Europe for years, peaking in 2015-16 when around a million people arrived in a seemingly endless stream of small boats.

“The EU should have an interest in this and ensure that we do not again see such a big, overcrowded camp which gives no dignity to the refugees, cannot be policed and where there is no rule of law” Erik Marquardt MEP

With the EU unable to reach agreement between countries like Greece and Italy, which want the bloc to share the burden, and others refusing to take in refugees, for the time being Lesbos’ 86,000 islanders and migrants remain unwillingly together.

Marquardt said, “The whole situation is creating tensions. Many people on the island are open minded and want to help the refugees as they have for the last few years, but there are some who are not so open minded and tensions on island between locals and migrants is getting bigger and bigger.”

“Some local people say this camp should never happen again and that there should not be a new camp built on the island.”

“What we have to remember is that there are about 13,000 victims of this catastrophe and what is needed now is a dialogue between all sides. Bridges have to be built.”

He said, “The EU should have an interest in this and ensure that we do not again see such a big, overcrowded camp which gives no dignity to the refugees, cannot be policed and where there is no rule of law.”

He continued, “This is an emergency so we must find a short-term solution, but it is no solution just to have some Member States, for example, taking unaccompanied children.”

“In the short term, there are lots of hotels here that are, at present, empty because of the pandemic. These and cruise ships should be used as emergency accommodation. Refugees would at least then be safe, can rest and be accommodated in a more dignified way.”

He stressed, however, that this could only be a “temporary solution.”

“Reconstructing Moria is not a solution, nor is it a solution to create similar conditions in other camps. It will only lead to the same problems that have caused the catastrophe” Letter from 170 MEPs to Commission and Council

The MEP’s virtual press conference comes just ahead of the European Commission's upcoming Pact on Migration and Asylum, which is due to be announced next week. It also follows a cross-party letter signed by 170 MEPs which was sent to the Commission and Council on Friday.

The letter says, “Reconstructing Moria is not a solution, nor is it a solution to create similar conditions in other camps. It will only lead to the same problems that have caused the catastrophe.”

“We call on you to ensure that the upcoming Pact on Migration and Asylum will be based on solidarity and the fair sharing of responsibilities among Member States. We must make sure that a humanitarian disaster like in Moria will never happen again.”

On Tuesday, a European Commission spokesman said the EU was stepping up its support for the migrants.

He told reporters, “EU Member States are continuing to show solidarity with four new countries, Slovakia, Hungary, France and Slovenia, showing support by providing items such as tents, blankets and sleeping bags. This comes on top of support by six other Member States already earlier this week.”

He said the EU emergency response centre was in “regular contact” with Greece and was “following the situation closely.”

There will be a plenary debate in Parliament on the need for an immediate and humanitarian EU response to the current situation in the refugee camp in Moria this Thursday.

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