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New Lesbos camp 'doesn't meet minimum standards under international law,' says NGO

PRESS are still barred from Lesbos’s replacement for the Moria refugee camp, which was gutted by fire last week, but an NGO said it had “verified that conditions do not meet the minimum standards of dignified living under Greek and international law.”

Refugee Support Aegean said that interviews with refugees and visits outside the temporary facility exposed that it is a “rough tent camp” in which one water tap is provided for the use of the 12,000 intended residents.

The Greek government resumed transfer of refugees to the camp today, saying it had moved 5,000 people there on Thursday.

Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said that 135 former residents of Moria had tested positive for Covid-19 and were being held “in special areas where they receive appropriate medical conditions.”

The ministry said all refugees on Lesbos must refer to the camp, and no asylum applications would be examined unless they had done so.

Nobody who had not registered at the camp would be allowed to leave the island, it said.

UN Refugee Agency Lesbos office chief Astrid Castelein said that so long as people were being transferred peacefully “we believe it is a good move,” given that thousands have been sleeping in the open since the Moria blaze, which Greek authorities have blamed on camp residents frustrated at lockdown restrictions.

Six people, all from Afghanistan and two of them minors, have been arrested on suspicion of arson.

“Here on the street it is a risk for security, for public health and it’s not dignified,” Ms Castelein said.

But Refugee Support Aegean said it was worried that “entry of lawyers and organisations offering humanitarian and other forms of support is forbidden, resulting in persons with illnesses and pregnant women remaining without medicine.” 

It also said Greece had not provided basic assistance to the thousands still sleeping rough on the roads, without “access to running water, toilets, food and bottled water or healthcare.

“We witnessed exhausted young mothers unable to breastfeed their babies, diabetic persons running out of medicine, infants without milk and others in those conditions.”

The camp is also to have its own dedicated police force of more than 300, Greek media reported.

These are being transferred from elsewhere in Greece and will not answer to Lesbos’s local police authorities.

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