Migrants Arriving on Lesvos in State of Exception

Situation of the new arrivals on the island of Lesvos since March 1st, 2020.

On the 1st of March, the Greek government announced the suspension of the right to asylum for new arrivals, and the straight deportation of any new arrivals. This was an action in response to the announcement of the Turkish government on opening the borders. Since this date 384 migrants have arrived on the island of Lesvos. The ones that arrived before the 14th of March, were held inside a warship (our tweet) and were later transferred to the camps of Malakasa and Serrés on the mainland. 

Ever since that date, 191 migrants have arrived on the island of Lesvos and have been forced to stay on the beaches and harbours in the North of the island they arrived on under terrible conditions: 56 people in the harbour of Petra, around 40 people at the chapel in Kleio and 35 in Aghios Stefanos. 

At one of these quarantine camps, over thirty people are held in two UNHCR tents where they barely fit. After arriving at this camp, they demanded an extra tent and were handed a summer tent that could hold a couple of people. During the first night, the people staying inside this tent were so cold that they had to join the rest in the bigger tents. At another spot, the locals did not allow for big UNHCR tents to be set and therefore the new arrivals had to endure harsh conditions in summer tents while others had to find shelter under small boats that were in the harbour where they had to stay. 

In all the locations, food and water has been delivered by UNHCR once a day, but with barely sufficient portions for the whole day. The biggest issue in both locations are hygiene facilities: No toilets were provided forcing people to use the harbour rocks or the forest as toilets, regardless whether they suffered of medical conditions that made this a difficult task. This is more than ironic, since the camp was meant to serve as quarantine camp where Corona cases might have been expected. The issue was the same for the showers, in one of the locations, the residents of the camp had to improvise a shower because they could not stand the situation after almost two weeks of staying there. When they complained about their situation to UNHCR, they were told that “some people are worse off than them, so they should not complain”. Even though civil organisations were barely allowed to approach, support is still here from the solidarians in the north. They delivered clothes, shoes, hygienic items, power banks.

While the residents at both camps remained hopeful of having arrived to what they assume is a safe place, the worries on the lack of information about their fate have grown with every day they had to stay at the camp. Some have heard about Moria camp, and are terrified to think that this might be their best option, in comparison with the closed camps on the mainland. Living in these situations, after having travelled for months or even years, they wondered if this was actually the beginning of a new struggle instead of the ending they had been wishing for. 

The right for asylum is not respected for these people fleeing war and political harassment. Under the idea of giving them the bare minimum to survive, the human rights of these migrants are violated. We are certain that those who manage this situation, the Greek government and European leaders give a better treatment to their pets than they do to these fellow human beings. 

We ask for the immediate evacuation of all camps on the islands and to transfer the residents to proper housing facilities. We demand freedom of movement for all!

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