Observatory News Bulletin: On the major crisis in the protection of asylum seekers in Moria RIC and the recent protests in Lesvos


Observatory News Bulletin: On the major crisis in the protection of asylum seekers in Moria RIC and the recent protests in Lesvos

Since August 2019, there has been a constant increase in the number of refugees and migrants accommodated at Moria’s Reception and Identification Centre (Moria RIC).


Source: General Secretariat for Information and Communication (https://infocrisis.gov.gr/category/latest-info/national-situational-picture-regarding-the-islands-at-eastern-aegean-sea/?lang=en)

The rise in the RIC’s population has led to the steady expansion of the camp far beyond its official quarters, in the area which has often been described in the media as “the olive grove” or the “jungle” and which is now stretched in all directions around the camp’s official facilities (for more see here). As arrivals continue, around 20.000 asylum seekers are now living in dire conditions, amidst tones of rubbish, in makeshift shelters and summer tents with no electricity and limited access to hygiene or heating facilities. We are facing a major crisis in the protection of asylum seekers in Lesvos.

The dramatic deterioration of the living conditions in Moria has been described in journalistic accounts in the national and international press (see lists of selected articles below), in reports of major Non-Governmental Organizations and Intergovernmental Organizations (UNHCR), who act on the ground offering valuable services in various domains, as well as by the displaced travelers themselves, who constantly point out issues that relate to health hazards and lack of protection (for more see here). More specifically the issue of deficient protection has been stressed in reference to the most vulnerable groups, residing nowadays in or around Moria camp, and especially unaccompanied minors. The RIC’s facilities reached top capacity long ago to the affect that a lot of unaccompanied minors today live in inappropriate and unsafe conditions, outside the official’s camp appropriately established for them “safe zone”.

There are several events that have marked life in and around Moria RIC during the last months, most of them extensively discussed in national and international press. Among them, there is the break out of an extensive fire in the official camp area on September 29th which led to the death of a woman, the organization of protests by refugees and migrants demanding their transfer to other facilities in the mainland or the improvement of their life conditions in Moria,  the suicide of a detainee inside Moria’s RIC pre-removal centre, the recent deaths of 2 asylum seekers and the serious injury of a 3rd one after being stubbed in the camp and the bursting of riots that followed. At the same time the asylum seekers go on in their struggle to survive, often applying innovative strategies. A visit to Moria RIC can easily reveal its residents efforts to make the best of their lives there: the small underground ovens for the production of bread, made by Afghans, which were first recorded a few months ago have now multiplied, together with the tens of small shops, that sell food and other basic necessities and have by now stretched along the whole way that only a few months ago used to demarcate the limits of the official camp. Educational and other recreational activities offered by refugees to refugees have also emerged in the ‘jungle’, together with the organization of solidarity moves from the part of the local community, manifested recently in volunteers’ collection and distribution of parcels with winter clothing and other essentials.

The deterioration of the living conditions in Moria together with the implementation of the new Asylum Law in the beginning of 2020, a law that gives priority to the new applicants in the handling of asylum applications thus de facto extending further the period of waiting of the older applicants, created strong reactions and eventually resulted in massive demonstrations of the Moria RIC’s inhabitants and clashes with the police. Specifically on Monday 3rd February 2020, some 2000 asylum seekers from Afghanistan residing in Moria RIC protested because of delays in the processing of their asylum applications. The police tried to prevent protesters from marching to the island’s capital, Mytilene with the use of tear gas. Eventually, some 500 asylum seekers bypassed the police cordon to reach Mytilene, where a group tried to set up tents at the town’s seafront. The protesters, who were carrying makeshift signs with the word 'freedom', were confronted violently by strong police forces. During the night, tension spread in Moria’s RIC nearby village of Moria, where local residents reacted to the passing of protester’s through the village’s central street and discussed ways of reacting to the situation. On Tuesday 4th February local residents of Moria visited the offices of the General Secretariat for Aegean and Island Policy in Mytilene demanding the closure of Moria’s RIC, intensified sea patrols, and stricter monitoring of NGOs, while a group of 250 asylum seekers, rallied for a second time outside the Municipal Theater in the island’s capital Mytilene demanding “freedom” and shouting, “Lesvos people, we are sorry.” Again, the police intervened to prevent protesters from blocking traffic. From the part of the government, the cause of the recent protests lies on the island’s NGOs and their inciting role.

The escalation of (formal and informal) public discourse directed against humanitarian organizations is also manifested during the last days in the overt hostility displayed in various situations by members of the local community towards people who are identified as working or volunteering in NGOs. On the night of 4th February 2020, a group of around 20 youths wearing helmets and holding clubs attacked regulars at a bar in Mytilene where students and NGO employees were gathered. According to eye witnesses who talked to the police the same group roamed the town of Mytilene after midnight asking locals and foreigners to identify themselves. Authorities believe that the same individuals were active in the village of Moria earlier in the afternoon checking if foreigners, asylum seekers or employees in NGOs lived or worked there. During the same evening a protest was organized by grass-rooted initiatives who reported incidents of verbal and physical harassment towards refugees and declared solidarity to them.

During the same evening, as a respond to the incidents of verbal and physical harassment towards refugees, Ngo workers and volunteers organized a protest in solidarity to the refugees and in opposition to actions of violence.  

The asylum seekers’ protests on 3rd and 4th February 2020 followed an earlier protest on the 30th of January. During that day 300 women, residents of the Moria RIC, along with their children and under the slogan "Moria is hell", protested over the poor living conditions and demanded to be transferred out of Moria. The recent events are also related to the massive protest of North Aegean islands’ local residents, that took place on 22nd January 2020, as a reaction to the government’s plan to establish closed centers in Lesvos, Chios and Samos (for more see Observatory’s News Bulletin), as well as the recent announcement of the government’s plans to construct a floating barrier (net) in order to stop migrants from reaching the Greek islands from the nearby coast of Turkey.

The Observatory of the Refugee and Migration Crisis in the Aegean presents a collection of articles from the Greek (local and national) and international press and announcements from various political and social fora concerning the living conditions in Moria and the events that connect with the recent asylum seekers’ protests in Lesvos. The collection includes the following sections:

  1. Selected published material on accommodation and living conditions in Moria (in Greek)
  2. Selected published material on accommodation and living conditions in Moria (in English)
  3. Selected published audiovisual material about the living conditions in Moria RIC
  4. Articles from the Greek (local and national) press on the recent asylum seekers’ protests in Lesvos
  5. Articles from the international press on the recent asylum seekers’ protests in Lesvos.
  6. Announcements from political and social fora

1.Selected published material on accommodation and living conditions in Moria (in Greek)

Το σχολείο των παιδιών του καταυλισμού της Μόριας | amna.gr | 5/1/2020

Η Μόρια, που κάποτε ήταν ντροπή, σήμερα είναι πλέον αόρατη | avgi.gr | 31/12/2019

«Καλώς» ήρθατε στη Μόρια! | stonisi.gr | 25/12/2019

O tempora, ω Μόρια | efsyn.gr | 14/12/2019

Το φως και το σκοτάδι στη “Ζούγκλα” της Μόριας -Φωτορεπορτάζ | politikalesvos | 30/11/2019

Τα παιδιά στη Μόρια έχουν ξεχάσει ότι είναι άνθρωποι | tvxs | 1/11/2019

SOS από τη Μόρια -Επιστολή αγωνίας ασυνόδευτου ανήλικου από το Αφγανιστάν | iefimerida.gr | 22/10/2019

«Ναν», το ψωμί της ξενιτιάς των Αφγανών στη Μόρια | stonisi.gr | 22/10/2019

Μόρια: Δεν αντέχεται και δεν αντέχει | avgi.gr | 21/10.2019

Παιδιά μόνα αντιμέτωπα με την ανασφάλεια στη Λέσβο | stonisi.gr | 15/10/2019

2. Selected published material on accommodation and living conditions in Moria (in English)

Migrant camp children 'say they want to die' | bbc.com | 17/12/2019

Desperate refugees face up to closure of Moria camp |aljazeera.com | 27/11/2019

Life at the Moria refugee camp, Greece | infomigrants.net | 21/10/2019

Lone children face insecurity on Greek island | unhcr.org | 14/10/2019

In Lesbos’s Moria camp, I see what happens when a child loses all hope | theguardian.com | 6/10/2019

Behind the razor wire of Greece’s notorious refugee camp | theguardian.com | 5/10/2019

Lesbos: Hellish conditions for refugees in Moria |dw.com | 12/9/2019

3. Selected published audiovisual material about the living conditions in Moria RIC

Aποστολή του euronews στη Λέσβο: Περιμένοντας άσυλο στη «φυλακή» της Μόριας | euronews.gr | 19/11/2019

Life at the Moria refugee camp, Greece | infomigrants.net | 21/10/2019

Living in Moria with a deadly disease | infomigrants.net | 11/11/2019

Moria Refugee Hotspot Camp, Lesvos Oct 2019 | politikalesvos.gr | 3/10/2019

Η Μόρια των σκουπιδιών | stonisi.gr | 1/10/2019

4. Articles from the Greek (local and national) press on the recent asylum seekers’s protests in Lesvos

Πρωτοφανή επεισόδια στη Μυτιλήνη ενάντια στο νέο νόμο Ασύλου | stonisi.gr | 3 February 2020

«Λάδι στη φωτιά» οι σημερινές διαδηλώσεις | stonisi.gr | 3 February 2020

Ένταση στη Μυτιλήνη σε διάφορα σημεία της πόλης μετά την πορεία προσφύγων που ζητούν ελευθερία | voreioaigaio.ert.gr | 3February 2020

Ένταση στο χωριό της Μόριας | | stonisi.gr | 3 February 2020

«Ελευθερία» ζητούν οι πρόσφυγες στη Μόρια | efysn.gr | 4 February 2020

Διαδήλωση αιτούντων άσυλο με ένταση στην προκυμαία της Μυτιλήνης | voreioaigaio.ert.gr | 4February 2020

Διέλυσαν τη διαμαρτυρία Αστυνομία και Λιμενικό |  stonisi.gr | 4February 2020

«Συγνώμη, Λέσβος» | |stonisi.gr | 4February 2020

Ανθρωποκυνηγητό στη Μόρια | stonisi.gr | 4February 2020

«Τάγμα εφόδου» στην οδό Ερμού! | stonisi.gr | 4February 2020

2η μέρα επεισοδίων στο κέντρο της Μυτιλήνης| emprosnet;gr | 4February 2020

Κινητοποίηση κατοίκων Μόριας [Vid] | emprosnet;gr | 4February 2020

Βίαιες απωθήσεις κατά προσφύγων, αλληλέγγυων και μελών ΜΚΟ στο κέντρο της Μυτιλήνης | politikalesvos.gr | 4February 2020

Η κυβέρνηση απέρριψε το αίτημα “έκτακτης ανάγκης” για τη Λέσβο!| politikalesvos.gr | 4February 2020

Άσυλο με... ξύλο και χημικά | efysn.gr | 4 February 2020

Η κατάσταση παραμένει εκρηκτική ενώ το βράδυ προκλήθηκε και νέα ένταση | emprosnet;gr | 5 February 2020

Δεύτερη ημέρα με αυξημένη ένταση στη Λέσβο | efysn.gr | 4 February 2020

Στα διεθνή ΜΜΕ η ντροπή της Μόριας | tvxs.gr | 5February 2020

Επικίνδυνα παιχνίδια με τον κοινωνικό αυτοματισμό στη Λέσβο | tvxs.gr | 5February 2020

Ολονύχτιο κυνηγητό αστυνομικών κατά 15 «πιτσιρικάδων» | stonisi.gr | 5February 2020

Επιμένει ο Περιφερειάρχης στο αίτημα για κήρυξη των νησιών σε κατάσταση έκτακτης ανάγκης | voreioaigaio.ert.gr | 7February 2020

Συλλήψεις ακραίων που… δεν υπάρχουν!| stonisi.gr | 7February 2020

Σύλληψη 7 “ακραίων” στο χωριό της Μόριας | voreioaigaio.ert.gr | 7February 2020

Χρυσαυγίτες ως… αγανακτισμένοι της Μυτιλήνης στο δελτίο του Star | efysn.gr | 7 February 2020

5. Articles from the international press on the recent asylum seekers’s protests in Lesvos.

Greek police fire teargas at protesting migrants, refugees on Lesbos | reuters.com | 3 February 2020

Migrants clash with police at protest rally on Lesvos | ekathimerini.com | 3 February 2020

AYS Daily Digest 03/02/20 — Police Suppress Protests on Lesvos | medium.com | | 3 February 2020

Greece sends more riot police to Lesbos after migrant clashes | theguardian.com | 4 February 2020

Extra riot police sent to Lesvos as migrants continue second day of protests  | greekcitytimes.com | 5 February 2020

Violent protests do not mean asylum, say Greek authorities| infomigrants.net | | 5 February 2020

Greece tightens rules for refugee NGOs | infomigrants.net | 6 February 2020

6. Announcements from political and social fora

«Απαιτούμε από την Κυβέρνηση άμεση αποσυμφόρηση» | stonisi.gr | 3 February 2020

«Αιδώς Αργείοι!» | | stonisi.gr | 3 February 2020

«Η κυβέρνηση της ΝΔ οδήγησε το προσφυγικό σε αδιέξοδο» | stonisi.gr | 3 February 2020

«Να κλείσουν όλα τα hot spot‑Αμεσος απεγκλωβισμός όλων από τα νησιά» | stonisi.gr | 3 February 2020

H «Ανυπόταχτη Μυτιλήνη» για τις κινητοποιήσεις προσφύγων και μεταναστών | stonisi.gr | 3 February 2020

«Πρέπει να μπει τέλος στον εμπαιγμό» | stonisi.gr | 3 February 2020

Αν. Μιχαηλίδης: τα γεγονότα στη Μόρια επιβεβαιώνουν τις τραγικές επιλογές Κυβέρνησης σε προσφυγικό- μεταναστευτικό | | voreioaigaio.ert.gr | 4February 2020

«Η πολιτική του εγκλωβισμού υπεύθυνη για την εκρηκτική κατάσταση» | stonisi.gr | 5February 2020

ΑΝΤΑΡΣΥΑ Λέσβου: υπεύθυνη για την έκρυθμη κατάσταση στο νησί είναι η κυβέρνηση | lesvosnews.net | 5February 2020

Προσφυγικό: Άμεση αποσυμφόρηση των νησιών ζητούν 14 ανθρωπιστικές οργανώσεις | tvxs.gr | 6February 2020

Ελληνικό Φόρουμ Προσφύγων: Εξόχως ανησυχητική η κατάσταση στη Λέσβο | lesvosnews.net | 7 February 2020

UNHCR calls for decisive action to end alarming conditions on Aegean islands | unhcr.org