“Sometimes I think drowning in the sea is better than living in Moria”
This was said by a young man at food distribution, while talking about the situation in Camp Moria this week.
It is no longer new or unusual to write about the abusive conditions and overcrowding in Moria camp, or about the coming winter, which its enforced residents must soon face. It happens every year, and once again Moria has reached new levels of overcrowding. Last winter, around 7400 people were living in the camp – a record high at the time. Now it is double that. The statistics of the “Ministry of Citizen Protection” show that about 14,700 people are currently condemned to live in Moria – over five times its’ official capacity of 2840.
Since there are still a lot of people arriving on the islands, in October alone Moria’s population increased by around 2000 people. Authorities responded by transferring 1700 people to the mainland, but in the same period there were over 3300 new arrivals to the island. It’s clear that the usual policy of transferring people to the mainland and forgetting about them doesn’t work (without even talking about the human rights abuses that occur in these mainland camps). Reform or drastic change is needed to improve the situation on the islands. Without this, it seems likely to be the worst winter we have seen on the island, the latest in a chain of constantly worsening winters. But it is obvious that the European Union not even trying to improve the situation. The EU creates it. The EU creates it on purpose.
Despite all the evidence, all the stories of people on the move, EU authorities still believe these abuses will discourage people from crossing the borders: “Lesvos is a prison, Moria is a hell, so don’t come here, don’t even try.” The conditions here should come as no surprise, they are the direct result of the EU Turkey deal, and the policy aiming to send people back before they reach the mainland or other European countries.
We continue to report on the conditions, knowing that they are created on purpose, to stay informed, and to stay angry. To hold the authorities to account, even in the face of their indifference.
Overcrowding in Moria means conditions are getting even worse. Many people live in simple summer tents, which provide no shelter against the miserable cold rain and wind of the winter. In many cases, people do not even have blankets. People are crammed together in tiny, unliveable spaces – a four-person family reported being given just 4 square meters to sleep and live.
The days in the camp are full of waiting. Waiting for food, toilet, showers, money, doctors, and of course the asylum service. To use the toilet, the wait is up to 30 minutes. To eat something, it can be 3 hours – but even then you are not guaranteed to receive your small ration of food. And if you have an appointment in the town or at the Asylum Office, of course you will have to skip your food that day, because you cannot wait in line. One person now living outside of the camp explained his health problems prevent him from standing in line for that long – so it was impossible for him to stay in the camp, because he could not receive food there.
With the 90€ every asylum seeker should receive per month, people try to cover the gaps in this broken system, for example by buying additional food or bus tickets. But people now arriving on Lesvos have been told they must wait until April to receive this small cash assistance. So those people who know the structures the least, must somehow cope the whole winter without the urgently needed money.
The situation is worsening, as it worsens every winter. This year we are seeing new levels of overcrowding, new cruelties in the financial assistance program, and the continuation of incompetence and indifference from the authorities.
Moria is hell.
A hell created by the European Union.
A hell created on purpose.
It is not about improving (or pretending to improve) the situation in this hell. It is about closing camps like Moria and enable the freedom of movement. For everyone!
Love and rage,
Your NBK crew