Things turned from bad to worse at the Kara Tepe temporary camp for internally displaced persons on the Greek island of Lesbos. Residents posted images to Now_you_see_me_moria Instagram account showing plumes of smoke floating above UNHCR’s white tents at the site, as two women desperately cry out for help.
The accompanying text reads: “Yet another fire in Moria’s second camp on Lesvos. Two tents burned down. This is not the first time, it will not be the last. This is because the government doesn’t care about refugees. “
Residents of Moria and Kara Tepe camps are not only using Instagram, but a separate platform also called Now You See Me Moria to draw attention to their dire plight. Since outside photographers and television crews are not currently allowed access, these photographs and videos are currently the only way to get information about life inside the camps.
The camp’s location on the coast means its tents are exposed to frequent storms
Last week, camp residents had to experience a sudden and unexpected drop in temperature, with hail and snow falling on Lesvos. Strong gusts of wind blew the tent tarps. The island’s clay soil prevented water from draining out, turning the camps into a muddy mess.
On February 17, UNHCR Greece tweeted: “Cold snap hits Greece with thousands of refugees and asylum seekers living in tents or makeshift shelters on the islands of Samos, Chios and Lesbos [Ed.: an alternative spelling of Lesbos] face freezing temperatures and freezing winds in precarious conditions. “
Some 15,000 displaced people are currently hosted on a handful of Greek islands. About half of them live in Kara Tepe in Lesbos. The makeshift site was set up after a fire destroyed much of Moria camp in September 2020. Kara Tepe is located on the Mediterranean coast, which is why its inhabitants are regularly exposed to storms and flooding .
Since the Moria fire, residents of the camp are no longer allowed to prepare their own meals. Instead, Greek military personnel are tasked with providing them with food. Kara Tepe is surrounded by barbed wire fences and under constant surveillance. A strict lockdown has been imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Some 2,500 minors live in the camp.
Coronavirus prevention measures are in effect at the camp
“Flooded tents, too few toilets and shows, hardly any protection from storms and rain: the newly established refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos is testament to the failure of the refugee policy of the Europe ”, estimates the German Catholic organization Caritas International. The group has helped set up toilets, distribute meals and blankets, and offer English lessons and psychological counseling.
He says the camp – designed to potentially accommodate up to 10,000 people – is inadequate to house even the 7,000 residents who currently live there. He says that apart from inadequate sanitation, there is no reliable supply of food and water.
Isabel Schayani, a reporter for the German public broadcaster WDR, recently shared a heartbreaking video on Twitter shot by a resident showing a youngster braving cold and heavy rain to reach a portable toilet – a feat that is anything but easy for Kara Tepe . Schayani notes in the tweet that it is illegal to make such a video and send it outside the camp.
In December, there was already serious flooding which flooded the tents, installed a few months earlier.
On February 17, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report indicating that parts of Kara Tepe were built on soil contaminated with lead. “For seven weeks after the Greek government received test results which showed unsafe lead levels, it took minimal action, and now continues to minimize the risk and the need for further action,” Belkis Wille said, senior researcher on crises and conflicts at HRW.
Germany has hosted over 1,600 people from Lesbos since March 2020
Germany, meanwhile, has taken in other families of refugees from Lesbos. A plane carrying 26 families landed in Hanover on February 17. The German Interior Ministry said they made up a total of 53 adults and 63 children. Since March 2020, 1,677 people from Lesbos have been welcomed by Germany.
The European Commission says it has increased its funding to 30 million euros ($ 36 million) to transport families from Lesvos to other countries. In addition to Germany, France, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, Ireland, Portugal, Slovenia, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden said they would accept people displaced from Greece.
This article has been translated from German.