The tragic situation caused by the fire that destroyed the Moria refugee camp requires immediate solutions, including evacuation, to protect both asylum-seekers and local residents.
Following the incident, Civil Liberties Committee Chair Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES) said on Wednesday:
“We have learnt that a fire has destroyed a large part of the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, leaving some 12,000 asylum-seekers, including 4,000 children and other vulnerable persons, without shelter. It is a tragedy that was foretold and predicted by the Civil Liberties Committee a thousand times throughout the debates of the past six months.
Unfortunately, the terrible situation in the Moria hotspot and the surrounding camp is no news to our Committee. We have followed closely, since more than four years now, the dire situation in Moria. The Civil Liberties Committee has visited Greece twice in this period, and the inhumane reception conditions, not in compliance with European law, were raised at numerous occasions with the Greek authorities and the European Commission.
More recently, in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Committee warned that the humanitarian crisis on the Greek islands risked to become a public health issue and stressed the need for an immediate European response. We asked for emergency evacuation of the camp and for immediate relocation of asylum-seekers to other Member states. After the detection of the first Covid-19 cases, the camp was put under quarantine, though it is difficult to imagine how a quarantine accompanied by social distancing measures can be sustained in such an overcrowded camp, with inadequate hygiene facilities.
Yesterday’s fire has caused a tragic situation, and immediate solutions have to be found that should ensure the evacuation of all those persons and their transfer to facilities where their basic rights under EU and international law can be respected. All appropriate action has to be taken, if needed with European funding, to provide safe and healthy accommodation for the applicants for international protection affected by the fire and those living in the vicinity. The measures should ensure the safety and health of all persons living in the area, including locals.”
The Civil Liberties Committee will discuss the situation in Lesbos following the destruction of the Moria camp in its meeting on Thursday, 10 September. MEPs also plan to hold a plenary debate next week with Commission and Council representatives on the EU response to the humanitarian crisis caused by the fire.