08 September 2020
Under the cover of the coronavirus pandemic, the migrant and refugee reception centres on Lesvos and Chios - already overcrowded, unsanitary and unable to provide people with their basic rights - are to be turned into closed detention centres, the Greek government has announced. The move has been condemned by grassroots organisations.
Using Coronavirus as an Excuse, Greek Government Plans to Turn Moria Into a Closed Camp (Are You Syrious, link, emphasis added):
"As we reported in yesterday’s digest, the first case of coronavirus was discovered in the camp of Moria, prompting a strict lockdown and concerns about further repression. Today, the government announced that centers on Lesvos and Chios will be converted to closed structures.
The contracts were already published and Moria is set to officially become a closed structure in early November. The people of Moria have had their movement limited for 165 days, and now they will not be able to leave at all. Meanwhile, there is no working COVID-19 unit within the camp, although authorities promise one will be open within the month.
Instead of using resources to give people adequate living conditions and open up new medical facilities, or to resettle people and close the camp altogether, the government is spending those resources on creating closed structures. This is also a slap in the face to Greek residents of the islands, who have been vocal in their opposition to closed structures. Instead of listening to the demands of Greeks and people on the move alike, the government tried to blame locals for the epidemic by implying that the outbreak would have been avoided if the closed structure was built in February and plowed ahead with the unpopular building plan."
According to Legal Centre Lesvos (LCL, link), the contract for the construction works that will turn the Moria camp on Lesvos into a closed centre is worth around one million euros. The government has reportedly signed a contract with AKTOR, a branch of the ELLAKTOR group.
LCL cite the Greek Minister of Migration as saying that the construction of barbed wire fences with tightly-controlled entry and exit will "enhance the feeling – not only health, but security – both of the residents and the local communities."
The Centre puts the blame for this move towards closed centres not just on the Greek government, but on other EU member states and EU institutions as well (emphasis added):
"The response of European Member States, in light of this dire reality, has been abysmal – and unsurprisingly so. Member States are complicit in the systematic abuse of human rights at the European border, whether those violations manifest in Moria refugee camp, in the asylum procedure and associated family reunification mechanism, or in the deadly practice of the border itself. In the context of a global pandemic, Member States chose to push forward a limited relocation effort that serves their public image rather than engaging with these substantive issues. As the Greek authorities now openly instrumentalise the pandemic to pursue their pre-existing objective of expanded detention of asylum seekers, the silence from other Member States and European institutions is no longer just conspicuous – but expected."
There were over 84,000 people with a pending asylum application in Greece at the end of June, according to a recent analysis published by Refugee Support Aegean (RSA). Looking at recent Eurostat data, they highlight that over two-thirds of all asylum applications in Greece - almost 69% - result in the granting of some form of protection.
The organisation highlights that: "The majority of people seeking asylum are assessed by the authorities to be in need of international protection, with official data calling into question statements to the contrary."
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