Refugees say 'fewer rights than animals' on Lesbos

Syrian, Arab refugees say 'fewer rights than animals' in migrant camps on Lesbos
3 min read
23 December, 2020
The migrant volunteers said they were eager to help improve living conditions in the camp.
The makeshift camp flooded last week [Facebook]
Asylum seekers living in Greece's largest camp have fewer rights than animals, migrant volunteer groups said on Wednesday in a scathing Christmas letter to European citizens and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen.

Over 7,000 people have been living in the 32-hectare Kara Tepe tent camp on the island of Lesbos since September, when the permanent facility of Moria burned down.

"We wish you a Merry Christmas from the new refugee camp in Lesvos. We hope you can celebrate despite the hardships we all face due to the... pandemic crisis," the Moria Corona Awareness Team and the Moria White Helmets – a group of Syrian and Arab refugees – said in the open letter.

The makeshift camp flooded last week, and a three-year-old Afghan girl was found semi-conscious and bleeding in the camp lavatory, with authorities saying she was raped.

Though security has improved, "in many ways the situation is somehow even worse than before the big fire," the migrant groups said, noting that they have not been able to organise themselves to provide leisure activities and schooling for their children.

And despite millions of euros in aid, there are not enough hot showers, poor lighting, insufficient medical attention and no heaters, they said.

"If we get sick, we wait hours for medical treatment and although the food we receive is enough, it is not very healthy," the groups said.

"We studied the laws to protect animals in Europe and we found out they have more rights than we do... So we just ask you to grant us [the] simple rights animals have."

"None of us are able to live normally, because all day we struggle to get some water to clean, food and a warm place and we all live in fear and distress," they said.

The migration ministry says that the Kara Tepe camp, built within days under emergency conditions to house thousands left homeless by the fire, is temporary.

It will be replaced in 2021 by a new, permanent camp for up to 5,000 people created with EU assistance.

Read also: 'We made it': Iraqi refugee family is home at last

On Wednesday, the ministry said the EU had provided an additional 10 million euros to build 10 health units in camps.

The migrant volunteers said they were eager to help improve living conditions in the camp.

"Many of us are engineers, electricians, doctors and we know it does not need very much money to fix such a camp," they said.

"We are ready to help and work hard, if you let us and trust us to make this place better."

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