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NGOs describe conditions at Moria refugee camp as “shameful”

More than 17,000 refugees and migrants are crammed into reception centers, camps, on the Greek islands in conditions civil society organizations describe as “shameful.” In a joint statement 19 NGOs urge Greek authorities to take action beyond focusing on one camp.

Especially, the living conditions in Moria camp on the island of Lesvos is sharply criticized.

More than 8,300 refugees and migrants are in the former military camp Moria, are housed in shipping containers and flimsy tents in conditions  falling short of basic standards.

The NGOs called conditions at Moria camp “shameful”, yet added that the same applied to other island camps as they have exceeded their capacities long ago.

The NGOs signing the appeal include, Oxfam, Action Aid, Danish Refugee Council, Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund, International Rescue Committee, Médecins du Monde and others.

“There is no excuse for the … conditions in which thousands of people remain trapped in limbo while they wait out their asylum claims,” the NGOs said.

“Moria … is currently housing almost three times its capacity. The sewage system does not work and filthy toilet water reaches the tents and mattresses where children sleep.”

Conditions at Moria are “shameful”.

 19 NGOs decry conditions at the site, now worse than ever, and call for sustainable solutions to both decongest the islands and improve conditions across first receptions centres in North Aegean Sea.

 Athens, September 13, 2018 – Over 17,000 people remain crammed in Greek island reception centers with a total capacity for only 6,000, living in desperate conditions which do not meet humanitarian standards. This, despite public assurances from the Greek Minister of Migration Policy, Dimitris Vitsas, that the islands would be decongested by September and that thousands of new places would be created on the Greek mainland. As conditions continue to deteriorate, 19 civil society organisations once again urge authorities to engage in the creation of sustainable solutions for the decongestion of the islands and to immediately improve reception conditions for refugees. It is nothing short of shameful that people are expected to endure such horrific conditions on European soil.

Moria, the first reception centre on the Greek island of Lesvos, recently described in a BBC report as “the worst refugee camp in the world,” is currently hosting almost three times its capacity. The sewage system does not work and filthy toilet water reaches the tents and mattresses where children sleep. This, despite funds for sewage system improvement having been approved for some time. Reports of sexual violence and abuse are on the rise. The first reception centre on Samos is six times over its capacity.

In addition, chronic shortages in crucial staff are further exacerbated by the constant resignations of health professionals working in the island sites, who are resigning as a result of untenable working conditions. The Keelpno coordinator on Samos was recently quoted in the Greek press as saying that, despite Greece’s ongoing financial struggles, “medical staff prefer taking the road of unemployment, rather than having to work under such conditions”.  Earlier this week, staff at Moria staged a strike to protest conditions at the site.

Also this week, the Prefecture of the Northern Aegean described Moria as “unsuitable and dangerous for public health and the environment,” and warned that the site would be closed in 30 days if sanitary conditions are not improved dramatically. In this environment, civil society organisations working on the islands also find it increasingly difficult to do their work.

There is no excuse for the shameful conditions in which thousands of people remain trapped in limbo while they wait out their asylum claims. The Greek authorities must take immediate and urgent action to ensure that refugees benefit from full access to their basic rights and that they are accommodated in dignified conditions, in accordance with national and international law. The relief measures promised by the Greek authorities to create thousands of additional safe and dignified accommodation spaces on the mainland and transfer people off the islands to the mainland must be implemented immediately as a matter of urgency. At the same time, EU leaders should urgently renew efforts to unblock discussions on the implementation of a fair and permanent mechanism of responsibility allocation within the European Union.


  1. ActionAid Hellas
  2. Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund
  3. Caritas Hellas
  4. Comissión Española de Ayuda al Refugiado
  5. Danish Refugee Council
  7. Greek Council for Refugees
  8. Greek Forum of Refugees
  9. Greek Helsinki Monitor
  10. Hellenic League for Human Rights
  11. HIAS Greece
  12. International Rescue Committee
  13. Jesuit Refugee Service
  14. Legal Centre Lesbos
  15. Médecins du Monde
  16. Oxfam
  17. Praksis
  18. SolidarityNow
  19. Terre des hommes

Last month the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR urged Greece to accelerate transfers of eligible asylum-seekers from the islands to the mainland, describing the camps “severely overcrowded.”

Thousands of asylum-seekers and migrants, including many children, live in squalid, inadequate and rapidly deteriorating conditions. Some have been living in these islands camps  for more than six months.

“UNHCR is particularly concerned about woefully inadequate sanitary facilities, fighting amongst frustrated communities, rising levels of sexual harassment and assaults and the increasing need for medical and psycho-social care,” the agency said in a statement.

Greece has moved asylum seekers from the island camps to the mainland in recent months and is looking to speed up efforts to reduce numbers at the camps.

However, there are some relocation restrictions due to the EU Migration deal.

According to latest figures by the Greek government on 10. Sept 2018, the exact total number of refugees and migrants on the islands is 20,110 people.
Boats with refugees and migrants keep arriving on Lesvos, two boats with a total of 112 people arrived alone on Thursday morning.

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One comment

  1. Don’t blame the Greek government. Blame those who first announced the message welcoming all refugees. Come see the conditions of homeless Greek families and children living way below the poverty line in destitution. In Athens garbage bins are ransacked daily in search of food. The Greek people are generous in spite of the econimic situation and help who they can. Let Germany provide for the migrants she invited.