“I don’t do anything wrong. Just that I asked a question. And he [the police officer] starts kicking me. He said I talk too much.” This case of police brutality against a young woman from West Africa took place in the quarantine section of Moria 2.0. The camp is heavily militarized – surrounded by barb wired fences, swarming with police, surveilled by drones and entering is only possible through the several check points. Journalists are not allowed in and NGO workers are legally forbidden to report about occurrences inside the camp. It’s like a black box for information where residents are at the mercy of the police.
The woman is among the approximately 140 residents of Moria 2.0 who are currently in the quarantine section. It is an isolated area where residents who were tested positive for COVID-19 as well as negative tested ‘contact persons’ and people who just arrived to Lesvos are forced to live together in overcrowded containers. People are at a high risk of being infected with the virus here. More than a year after the beginning of the global pandemic the existence of such a place can hardly be considered a failure by the authorities but rather as intent . Greek minister of migration Notis Mitarachi stated that "the data show that in the [camps] we are not facing an issue with deaths or the spread of COVID-19” , eventhough a study shows that the risk of an infection with COVID-19 is 2,5-3 times higher for refugees in Greek camps than for the general population in Greece . Local newspapers have reported about an explosion of positive Corona cases in Moria 2.0 with about 18 newly confirmed cases within just one day .
Since the beginning of the pandemic Greek authorities have reacted with increased police presence and brutality to the situation instead of strengthening health care. In September 2020 there was the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the old Moria camp. This was shortly after Greek authorities had closed the only isolation clinic by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and fined them 35.000 € for the apparent lack of a building permit. Instead of re-opening the clinic or sending more doctors and medical staff to fight the outbreak, a fence around the Moria camp was supposed to be built and more police and military forces were sent to guard the camp.
The current developments fit the pattern: Greek authorities try to restrict migrants and not the spread of the virus. Rather than isolating and treating people with COVID-19, the quarantine section in Moria 2.0 on the contrary is a dangerous breeding ground for infections. In line with the repression and violence in the camp, police officers in the streets of Mytilene or Athens carry out racial profiling and fine migrants between 300 and 3.000 € for apparent violations of COVID-19 measures – an absurd amount of money for people who receive 75 € per month. On top, it is said that no one can leave the country before paying off the debt. To our knowledge many refugees have received multiple fines and are thereby restricted to leave Greece, even if they have the right papers to go.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the public outcry about the fact that tens of thousands of migrants were forced to live in camps that exposed them to the dangers of COVID-19, with no possibility to regularly wash their hands or practise social distancing, was big. The demand “Leave No One Behind” became a movement. Now the camps aren’t new to Lesvos and still not better equipped to protect its residents from the dangerous virus, but the authorities have become better in hiding its shameful conditions behind barbed wire fences guarded by aggressive police. Our calls to #LeaveNoOneBehind need to become even louder!