MEPs demand better conditions for all refugees on Greek islands

About 36,000 persons are present there, also outside the camps designed for a maximum of around 8,000

Photo: EP Sophia in't Veld

At their mini plenary session in Brussels, MEPs held a thorough discussion with the Commission and the Finnish Presidency of the Council on the situation in the hotspots on the Greek islands, in particular the case of Moria camp.

Almost 36,000 persons are present on the islands, inside and many also outside camp areas designed for a maximum of around 8,000, underlined Tytti Tuppurainen, Finnish Minister for European Affairs, noting that this is the first time such a high number has been reached since the implementation of an EU-Turkey statement. Conditions are unacceptable, migrants and asylum seekers are facing a dire situation with significant shortages of basic shelter and unsanitary and unhygienic conditions, she added.

As Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos stressed, the root causes are still there and unfortunately they will be there for many years. “We have a huge responsibility to address this issue and lead the whole work in providing support to these people and finding practical solutions,” he said, urging that at the same time returns need to be accelerated.

On the case of Moria, Claude Moraes, British S&D MEP, underscored that there are 17,000 people there but only three or four government doctors, NGOs are telling, and there is an emergency. “Let's deal with that emergency before the winter but let's be clear it is a longer term problem and we need solidarity, real solidarity,” he asserted.

“This is now the fourth winter that we leave people, human beings, living in appalling conditions not because there are no boats going from the islands to the mainland. They are there for one reason only. It is a result of policy choices. It is deliberate. We have a collective responsibility and I would like to point the finger at the Council, because I think it is deeply shameful that the Council for four years now has flatly refused to take its responsibility and adopt the asylum package”, said Sophia in't Veld (RE, NL).

German Green deputy Erik Marquardt commented that there is no education provided for children in the camps and that most education has been provided by NGOs. He also pointed out that the places in the Moria camp are many times less than they are supposed to be.

Imagine that minors are out sleeping on the streets, he said, recalling that in the last few years Member States promised they will relocate 160,000 people from Italy and Greece but in the end 100,000 places were pledged and only 30,000 were relocated. Is that how European solidarity works and how can people be spending the winter in summer tents in Europe, he asked.

Greek GUE/NGL MEP Konstantinos Arvanitis, stressing that the situation in the Moria camp is tragic, said that the approach is wrong, not looking at the problem. You think that migrants are a problem, the problem is war, he claimed, adding: “You do not really see the root causes, you see the results.”

For four winters, we have been discussing here the urgent action needed in Greece, and it is not just about Greece, centre-right Dutch MEP Jeroen Lenaers emphasised. He specified that this is a European challenge and the lack of solidarity is appalling. Indeed, if a Greek minister sends his 27 colleagues a letter to ask for help and only one of them replies, what does that say about the other 26, what does that say about any of us, MEP Lenaers asked.

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