The footage below, shot by an anonymous refugee, shows the situation in Moria refugee camp in Lesbos (Greece). Men, women and children are forced to sleep outside in snow-covered tents, lacking adequate heating and with temperatures often below zero. Winter aggravated the situation, which was already quite severe, making it even more unbearable. Migrants have to queue for long hours in cold temperatures to get some food, which, sometimes, is not even available on the islands. This stands in stark contrast with what has been declared by Greek and European authorities on what are the reception conditions for refugees.
The situation is rather dire also in Samos and Chios as well as in certain areas in Northern Greece, as condemned by MSF, UNHCR and several NGOs. Adrian Edwards, the spokesperson for UNHCR, explains that, in the identification and registration centre in Samos – which is the only one available on the island – there are more than 700 people that live in tents with no heat. There are at least 15.000 people currently hosted on Greek islands, amongst which, one third are minors living in tents because there is no room for them in official refugee camps. Also in Serbia, temperatures have plummeted below -20 degrees, requiring an urgent response to protect those 3,000 individuals who live in informal settlements, mostly in abandoned buildings. Migrants are experiencing inhumane living conditions because of bitterly cold temperatures. Attempts by NGOs are insufficient to address this situation.
The solution proposed by the UNHCR, which we strongly support, is that of accelerating the transfer of these 15,000 people that are on Greek islands to equipped facilities in mainland Greece. Transfers would guarantee dignified reception of refugee and the safeguard of fundamental rights. Moreover, as of January 4, 2017, only 7,760 people out of 66.400 have been relocated from Greece. This amounts to only 12% of the total number of relocations required under the relocation system. In Italy, as of January 9, figures indicate that only 2,654 people have been relocated. The government should address this issue instead of planning to reopen CIEs to detain migrants.
I have tabled an urgent written question to the European Commission to ask what it intends to do to accelerate transfers to mainland Greece as well as relocations, and to make sure that funds allocated to the reception of refugees in Greece are truly used to guarantee human and decent living conditions.
It is not acceptable to leave people out in the cold, especially when it comes to individuals seeking international protection.
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