AGAINST THE CLOSURE OF DECENT ACCOMODATION STRUCTURES FOR LESVOS’ ASYLUM SEEKERS
The continuous arrival of thousands of migrants and refugees since 2015 in the Aegean, the Easternmost external border of the European Union, amounts to the largest population movement in Europe since the end of the Second World War. The Eastern Aegean islands, and Lesvos in particular, have emerged as the geographic epicentre of an unprecedented and ongoing refugee and migration crisis.
The management of the refugee crisis on Lesvos has two sides. The first is exclusively focused security, which is pursued through asylum seekers’ push-backs and detention, and has manifested in the appalling living conditions of Moria’s Reception and Identification Centre. Over the past five years, Moria’s RIC gradually transformed into a sprawling slum with hideous living conditions.
The other side of refugee management is humanitarian. Its procedures abide by international law and uphold the values officially proclaimed by the EU and the Greek state. Over the past years, Lesvos’ Municipal Accommodation Centre and PIKPA, a former children summer camp, both located in the outskirts of Mytilini, have been representative of the humanitarian side of the refugee crisis management. Their contribution has been confirmed by UNHCR, the foremost authority on humanitarian governance, and widely acknowledged.
Since its opening in the summer of 2015, the Municipal Accommodation Centre of Karatepe has provided decent living conditions, health care, education, and psychosocial support to many refugees and migrants. In the former summer camp a kindergarten was set up and several children and adolescents living there attended primary and secondary schools in the town of Mytilene. Since 2012, the PIKPA project has been offering solidarity and support to vulnerable people (fragile health, disabilities, travel with newborns and young children, legal complications of asylum applications).
During the pandemic, refugees’ isolation and confinement in the inhumane and unhealthy conditions of Moria’s RIC camp resulted in an outbreak that culminated in fires that completely destroyed the RIC and all surrounding living areas. Soon after, Mr Notis Mitarakis, Minister of Immigration and Asylum, announced the immediate closure of Lesvos’ Karatepe and PIKPA centres and the construction of closed accommodation facilities.
We are strongly opposed to Mr Mitarakis’s plans and request that he retracts his announcement. The closure of these facilities will endanger refugees’ and asylum seekers’ integration prospects, and undermine all efforts towards humanitarian and viable migration policies. This will be to the detriment of both asylum seekers and refugees, as well as of the local communities of Lesvos.
Moreover, we oppose all plans for closed accommodation facilities, which will prolong migrants and refugees’ suffering and turn the Aegean islands into Europe’s human repository. The abjection experienced by asylum seekers insults all of us, and needs to be stopped by measures that will enable them to leave Lesvos and the rest of the Aegean islands.
We oppose all policies that engender wretchedness and bring local communities to their limits. We call for an approach premised on earnest concern for all residents of Lesvos, both locals and foreigners, and protects all asylum seekers, and especially the most vulnerable amongst them.
The closure of Karatepe and PIKPA’s exemplary camps is unnecessary and disastrous. It needs to be stopped.