Moria refugee camp
Mória Reception and Identification Centre (Greek: Κέντρο Υποδοχής και Ταυτοποίησης Μόριας), better known as Mória Refugee Camp, or just "Mória", was the largest refugee camp in Europe until it was burned down in September 2020. It was located outside the village of Moria (Greek: Μόρια, Mória) near Mytilene on the island of Lesbos. Enclosed with barbed wire and a chain-link fence, the military camp served as a European Union “hotspot”. It was described by Human Rights Watch as an open air prison.
In August 2018, it was dubbed by the field coordinator of Doctors Without Borders as "the worst refugee camp on earth", as reported by the BBC. "I've never seen the level of suffering we are witnessing here every day", says Luca Fontana, MSF Lesbos coordinator (7'42). The camp was built to accommodate around 3,000 people, however there were around 20,000 people living in the camp in summer 2020, among whom 6,000 to 7000 were children under the age of 18.
Because of overcrowding, the camp expanded into a nearby olive grove, known as "Moria jungle", where the living quarters were makeshift, typically made out of pallets and tarps. The migrants cut down an estimated 5,000 olive trees, some of them centuries old, to use as firewood. The residents of the nearby village of Moria have complained of increased criminality, including break-ins, vandalism, and looting of houses.
Visited in 2019, the camp was described as "the recreation of a concentration camp on European soil" by Jean Ziegler, vice-chairman of the committee of experts advising the UN Human Rights Council.
On 8 September 2020, a fire badly damaged the camp of more than 12,000 asylum seekers. On 10 September, three Greek ships were sent to help shelter the migrants. By then, the camp was almost completely destroyed. Most of the refugees were left homeless on the street. During protests demanding their evacuation Greek police fired tear gas at them.
The Greek government maintains that the fires were started deliberately by migrants protesting that the camp had been put in lockdown due to a COVID-19 outbreak amongst the migrants in the camp. On September 16, 2020, four Afghan men were formally charged with arson for allegedly starting the fire. Two other migrants, both aged 17, which is below the age of full adult criminal responsibility in Greece, were also allegedly involved in starting the fire, and were held in police detention on the mainland.
After the closure of the Moria camp, a temporary facility was rapidly set up at Kara Tepe.
A more organised closed reception centre for refugees and asylum seekers was approved to be built by the Greek government with EU approval after the fire destroyed the Moria camp. It will be located at the Vastria area (near the village of Nees Kydonies) in north-east Lesbos and will be completed by summer 2022.
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- "Μεταναστευτικό - Μόρια: Αφανίζονται αιωνόβια ελαιόδεντρα και γίνονται... καύσιμη ύλη" [Immigrant - Moria: Centuries-old olive trees disappear and become ... fuel]. Protothema. 2020-04-07. Retrieved 2020-09-09.
- "Λέσβος: Ανάστατοι οι κάτοικοι της Μόριας από την εγκληματικότητα" [Lesvos: The inhabitants of Moria are upset by the crime]. Protothema. 2020-04-07. Retrieved 2020-09-09.
- "Jean Ziegler: "Nous avons recréé des camps de concentration"" [We have recreated concentration camps]. L'illustre. Retrieved 2020-09-09.
- "Jean Ziegler: "People live here like animals"". Teller Report. 2019-05-24. Retrieved 2020-09-09.
- "Thousands flee fire at Greece's largest migrant camp". DW. 8 September 2020.
- "Moria migrants: Greek ships to help shelter 13,000 after fire". BBC. 10 September 2020.
- "Greece's overcrowded migrant camp on Lesbos hit by more deliberate fires". CBC News. 10 September 2020.
- "Greek riot police fire teargas at refugees campaigning to leave Lesbos". The Guardian. 12 September 2020.
- "Afghan Migrants Charged With Arson in Fires that Destroyed Lesbos Camp". The New York Times. 16 September 2020. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
- "Afghans Charged With Arson For Fire At Lesbos Camp". The Washington Post. 16 September 2020.
- "Lesvos reacts angrily to plans for new immigrant structure". greekcitytimes.com. Retrieved 24 May 2021.
- "Λέσβος / Ετοιμάζουν κλειστή δομή για τους πρόσφυγες στη Βάστρια" [Lesvos / They are preparing a secure structure for the refugees in Vastria]. Αυγή (in Greek). 2020-11-30. Retrieved 2020-12-10.