Shortages, traumas and coronas drove people on Moria to madness

Moria residents are believed to have caused the fires in the migrant camp last night. In a speech, the Greek Prime Minister spoke out loud to them. Another fire broke out last night.

But the migrants are not the only culprits, says Adil Izemrane. He is co-founder of Movement on the Ground, an organization that helps people in Moria. It was only a matter of time. We, as Europe, have created the conditions for people to behave like animals.


Several fires broke out in the camp on the Greek island of Lesvos last night. Partly because the fire brigade was pelted with stones and sticks, a large part of the camp burned down. Thousands of residents were left homeless.

Employees of Izemrane were on site. They told him that the fires started at a place where migrants who had tested positive for corona were in quarantine. The people living around them were afraid of infection. This, combined with months of frustration and uncertainty, resulted in a demonstration that led to fires breaking out. Its super dry, theres been no rain for months, and that led to an inferno.

Yousef from Iraq has lived in Moria since 2017. I fought in the army, but Ive never seen a disaster like yesterdays. Well speak to him on Skype

The refugee camps in Greece have become overcrowded in recent years. This spring there were over 20,000 people in Moria, while the capacity is actually 3,000. Greece brought a number of migrants to the mainland this summer, but the camp is still far too crowded with 13,000 people.

Because of corona, most residents have not been allowed out of the camp for months. New residents had to be quarantined first. Last week it turned out that 35 people were infected after all. The outbreak put things on edge, says Izemrane. There was no plan from the Greek government, there was no plan for quarantine.

Shortages brought people to madness

The overcrowding led to distressing situations even before corona. There is hardly any sanitary and clean water. Izemrane: There is a shortage of everything a human being needs. The lack of psychosocial help and medical facilities has driven people who are already traumatized to madness.

Weve been seeing this coming for a while. I think corona has been the straw now, but it was only a matter of time. This isnt the first fire. Its the biggest.

Facilities in the area outside the fence of Moria, where the overcrowding means that most of the migrants are staying, have also been largely reduced to ashes, Izemrane says. His organization is making its facilities available for emergency shelter and food supplies. We need everything now: sleeping bags, food, mats to lie on. Its almost a confused zone right now.

Europe is also to blame, says Izemrane. Countries have not succeeded in creating a sustainable way of receiving refugees. This is a European problem. Five years of mismanagement has led to where we are today. Today is the result of an outdated European asylum system.

European agreements on the redistribution of refugees have not been implemented in recent years. Doctors and aid organizations warned this spring that if other European countries did not quickly take over asylum seekers from Greek islands, corona in the camps would have catastrophic consequences.

Izemrane: We really need to solve this as a Union: more sustainable shelter and fairer redistribution is the only answer. If theres ever a time when there should be, its today.

New Hour visited Lesvos just before the corona crisis and saw the dire conditions in and around Camp Moria: