Operation starts to move homeless Moria migrants to new camp

Critics lament the creation of "Europe's largest illegal prison"

17 September, 13:26

    (ANSAMed) - ATHENS, SEPTEMBER 17 - A massive police operation got underway on Thursday morning on the Greek island of Lesvos to transfer over 12,000 refugees and migrants left homeless by the huge fire that destroyed the Moria reception center to a new facility at Kara Tepe.

    The Kara Tempe area, which is the site of an army base and shooting rage, has already been labelled "tent city" by local media since the camp is made up purely of tents which have been hastily put up with the help of the army and United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

    Since three fires over three days completely destroyed the notoriously overcrowded Moria camp without any casualties, thousands of homeless migrants have been camped out on by the roadside on the main leading from Moria to the main town of Mytilene, as well as in nearby fields and at the foot of nearby mountains.

    The operation to move the migrants began with the arrival of 70 female police officers who were flown in from Athens on Wednesday and tasked with evacuating women and children first.

    The Greek police (ELAS) said in a press release that this is an operation "to protect public health with a clear humanitarian element," while also publishing a video of the operation kicking off.

    "Moria is a thing of the past; let's move on to the establishment of a modern reception and identification center in another area," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said of the operation. Over 1,000 tents had already been installed by late on Wednesday night at the site, which still remains without electricity and sewerage. However, 300 chemical toilets arrived on Wednesday.

    The main concern right now is the increase in positive Covid-19 cases, which on Wednesday reached 31 out of a total of about 1,000 refugees tested. All those brought to the new site will be tested for Covid-19 before entering by a special team of Greek Public Health Ministry staff. Those who test positive will be housed in a separate area of the site.

    Meanwhile, there has been large-scale criticism of Greece's initiative in the creation of the new site. The Lesvos brand of opposition party Syriza characterized it as "the biggest illegal prison in Europe", and called for the immediate evacuation of the island. In related developments, the human rights group Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) also heavily criticized the government's decisions. "The creation of a new camp and a system that will trap people indefinitely exposes the persistence in the same mistakes that led to this catastrophe", said Christina Psarra, director general of MSF. "The immediate evacuation of people is the only way to avoid chaos and not be repeated. Living conditions did not meet public health protocols before, so now it's worse, and they do not allow for the prevention of the transmission of Covid-19. We are clear: there should not be another Moria, and nothing like it should be built on its ashes", she added. (ANSAmed).

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