Fire in Moria: Children's and human rights above all
The Swiss NGO Terre des hommes (Tdh) calls on the Greek Government to immediately provide assistance to people who lost their shelter. On the 8th of September 2020, the fire in Moria on Lesbos destroyed at least 3,500 migrants’ home. Among them, many children and at-risk groups that are facing danger. The priority should be on unaccompanied children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, people with medical and mental health conditions that need to be transferred on the mainland for more protection. People who tested positive for Covid-19 should be given proper care to prevent the disease from worsening and spreading, that means safe housing for the quarantine period, healthcare, and hospitalisation if necessary.
Moving people from Lesbos 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 center 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.
The overcrowded Moria camp, which can host 2,800 people, currently hosts more than 12,000 asylum seekers and refugees, including more than 4,000 children. No means has been implemented in order to safeguard their health before or during the lockdown, which lasts for the last six months and affected asylum seekers’ fragile mental and physical health, while exposing them to an increased risk of Covid-19. The highly publicised “decongestion” process of the islands, which has largely amounted to refugees being requested to exit the island camps, without the means to survive, has already proven its inadequacy, intensifying social dumping and exclusion. The starkest examples of this failed policy are the hundreds of people, including mothers with infants, survivors of gender-based violence and families with children, desperately seeking shelter in public spaces in Athens and other cities, without state support for even food and water.
In conclusion, Tdh calls on all authorities to respect children's and human rights in their responses, as well as to give extra attention to at-risk groups. Means to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and to keep asylum seekers and refugees in good health are fundamental.