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The EU failed displaced people at Moria camp

Bernd Riegert / DW Share:
Smoke rises from the shelters during a large fire at refugee and migrants camp Moria, on the northeastern Aegean Sea island of Lesvos, Greece, on Sept. 9, 2020. A large fire broke out at Greece's largest refugee and migrants camp Moria in the early hours of Wednesday, Greek national news agency AMNA reported. The fire has spread throughout the reception center. Authorities have announced that 35 refugees had tested positive for the novel coronavirus and some of them refused to get into quarantine with their families, according to the report. No injuries have been reported so far. The overflowing camp hosted some 12,700 people with a capacity of 2,757, according to the latest official data provided by the Greek government. (Photo by Panagiotis Balaskas/Xinhua)

The European Union’s political response to the fire that destroyed the Moria camp for displaced people on the Greek island Lesbos makes one seethe.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, European Way of Life Commissioner, Margaritis Schinas, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and others have babbled profusely about the need to find EU solutions to asylum issues. Yet they know full well that such solutions have proven unreachable over the past five years, and they’re unlikely to be reached quickly now.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel meekly stated that the European Union at present simply has no common asylum policy. In other words, we can’t do anything — quite the opposite of Merkel’s famous “we can do it” quote from the 2015 refugee crisis.

It is no longer about an imaginary EU solidarity. It is about more than 12,000 displaced people who have been displaced from a camp for displaced people and now need urgent help. As far as we know, three days after the fire burned down the camp, these people have nothing, no water, no food, no shelter. And that’s not even mentioning protection from the coronavirus. It is a scandal.

A predictable result 

Greek authorities are either turning a blind eye or are unable to provide relief. And the rest of Europe?

Just a few days after a terrible explosion totally destroyed Beirut’s harbor, German technical relief teams and French military ships carrying aid material arrived. Where are they now? Is it not possible to organise help for a Greek island? Especially in the wake of a catastrophe that had been long predicted? For years, humanitarian groups had warned of the risks of chronic overcrowding and poor organisation.

The only answer Schinas could come up with was that a new tent camp must be built “as quickly as possible.” Are you kidding me? Do we have to wait for people to die of dehydration?

Photo taken on Sept. 9, 2020 shows the site after a fire broke out at refugee and migrants camp Moria, on the northeastern Aegean Sea island of Lesvos, Greece.  (Photo by Panagiotis Balaskas/Xinhua)

German Development Minister Gerd Müller said thousands of people could be evacuated within three days. He says that technically, this is no problem; there is simply a lack of political will. It’s so simple and so enraging, one could just scream.The German government has offered to take in 150 children, as has France. Eight other countries also want to take in another 100 kids in total.

Given the misery on Lesbos, this is pitiful. It’s great for the lucky 400, but it’s a sign of failure for the EU. And it’s a sign of failure for the German government in particular because at least ten major cities in Germany have voluntarily declared their immediate readiness to take in victims of the Moria catastrophe.


Goal of deterrence? 

The only possible conclusion one can draw from European Union’s inaction is that these images of suffering, of desperation and of collapse are desired. They’re supposed to act as a deterrence. This is pure cynicism that no longer has anything to do with the European values so often invoked. In summer 2018, an EU summit officially approved deterrence as a tool of migration policy. We are seeing this policy’s practical application today.

The leader of the opposition in the Bundestag, Alice Weidel, of the nationalist Alternative for Germany party, has fully disqualified herself on the topic. She argued that Germany should not take in any Moria victims because the potential arsonist could be among them.

The heartless Weidel should know that the fire department will first put out a fire and save lives, even in cases of arson. It is only after that police start looking for possible perpetrators. This would be the order of action if Weidel’s house were to catch fire. It should not be any different for Moria. DW

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