They died because of Europe’s cruel deterrence and detention regime!
Yesterday, on Sunday 29 September 2019, a fire broke out in the so-called hotspot of Moria on Lesvos Island in Greece. A woman and probably also a child lost their lives in the fire and it remains unclear how many others were injured. Many people lost all their small belongings, including identity documents, in the fire. The people imprisoned on Lesvos have fled wars and conflicts and now experience violence within Europe. Many were re-traumatised by these tragic events and some escaped and spent the night in the forest, scared to death.
Over the past weeks, we had to witness two more deaths in the hotspot of Moria: In August a 15-year-old Afghan minor was killed during a violent fight among minors inside the so-called “safe space” of the camp. On September 24, a 5-year-old boy lost his life when he was run-over by a truck in front of the gate.
The fire yesterday was no surprise and no accident. It is not the first, and it will not be the last. The hotspot burned already several times, most tragically in November 2016 when large parts burned down. Europe’s cruel regime of deterrence and detention has now killed again.
In the meantime, in the media, a story was immediately invented, saying that the refugees themselves set the camp on fire. It was also stated that they blocked the fire brigade from entering. We have spoken to many people who witnessed the events directly. They tell us a very different story: In fact, the fire broke out most probably due to an electricity short circuit. The fire brigade arrived very late, which is no surprise given the overcrowdedness of this monstrous hotspot. Despite its official capacity for 3,000 people, it now detains at least 12,500 people who suffer there in horrible living conditions. On mobile phone videos taken by the prisoners of the camp, one can see how in this chaos, inhabitants and the fire brigade tried their best together to at least prevent an even bigger catastrophe.
There simply cannot be a functioning emergency plan in a camp that has exceeded its capacity four times. When several containers burned in a huge fire that generated a lot of smoke, the imprisoned who were locked in the closed sector of the camp started in panic to try to break the doors. The only response the authorities had, was to immediately bring police to shoot tear-gas at them, which created an even more toxic smoke.
Anger and grief about all these senseless deaths and injuries added to the already explosive atmosphere in Moria where thousands have suffered while waiting too long for any change in their lives. Those who criminalise and condemn this outcry in form of a riot of the people of Moria cannot even imagine the sheer inhumanity they experience daily. The real violence is the camp itself, conditions that are the result of the EU border regime’s desire for deterrence.
We raise our voices in solidarity with the people of Moria and demand once again: The only possibility to end this suffering and dying is to open the islands and to have freedom of movement for everybody. Those who arrive on the islands have to continue their journeys to hopefully find a place of safety and dignity elsewhere. We demand ferries to transfer the exhausted and re-traumatised people immediately to the Greek mainland. We need ferries not Frontex. We need open borders, so that everyone can continue to move on, even beyond Greece. Those who escape the islands should not be imprisoned once more in camps in mainland Greece, with conditions that are the same as the ones here on the islands.
Close down Moria! Open the islands! Freedom of Movement for everyone!