Representatives of Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday challenged the government in Parliament over conditions at the Moria migrant camp on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos.
HRW's researcher for Greece, Eva Cosse, and disabled rights expert Emina Cerimovic were addressing the House’s subcommittee for the disabled following a visit to the Lesvos migrant registration and processing center, when they stressed the failure of Greek – as well as European – authorities to ensure humane living conditions.
The experts pointed to overcrowding as one of the biggest problems facing Moria and other camps on the Greek islands, adding that the Lesvos facility is struggling to accommodate a population that is more than double its capacity.
“No one deserves to be treated the way people at Moria are,” said Cerimovic.
The rights activists reported conversations with parents at the camp who complained of food and milk shortages, as well as the tribulations of a diabetic man who has not been put on the diet he needs to control the disease.
Many of the camp’s residents are forced to live in tents with just a few blankets that serve as a mattress and cushion, women are extremely vulnerable to sexual harassment and there are no showering facilities for residents with mobility problems, the HRW envoys told MPs.
“We have asked the government for information but have not received any answers regarding its plans for Moria,” Cerimovic said.
“European officials are unfortunately washing their hands of the problem,” added Cosse. “They don’t care about the situation of refugees in Greece.”
The activists also challenged claims by the government that the refugee agreement with Turkey prohibits the transfer of asylum seekers and migrants to camps on the mainland from the islands.
“This is not clearly stipulated anywhere in the agreement,” Cosse said, adding that transfer to a better facility is essential, especially for vulnerable groups.
The activist went on to shoot down a suggestion by certain MPs for addressing the issue of overcrowding by using ships for accommodation.
“These people would do anything to leave Moria, but putting them on a boat is not a good idea. Officials should talk to them to find solutions,” said Cerimovic. “These are intelligent people who may have some good solutions.”
“The simple solution is lifting the geographical restrictions and having regular transfers to the mainland,” Cosse added.