Moria Camp fire: Refugees must be safely relocated, allowed to seek asylum in European states

Issue 

Fires destroyed the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos on September 10, leaving thousands of people without shelter. About 13,000 people – including refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and west Africa – lived in grossly overcrowded conditions. The Global Ecosocialist Network adopted the following resolution in solidarity with the refugees:

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Living conditions in the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, housing thousands of refugees, were particularly difficult but now the future for the refugees on the island looks bleaker than ever.

A fire has largely destroyed the camp and left thousands of refugees and asylum seekers with no shelter.

There are no immediate plans by the Greek government to relocate and house the refugees and many of the 13,000 people continue to sleep on the streets. Refugees are not allowed to go to mainland Greece or to other European Union states.

There are hundreds of unaccompanied minors among the refugees on the island.

Recently, 35 refugees in the Moria camp tested positive for COVID-19, which created huge fear and led to protests for better conditions.

European response to refugee crisis

As in the past, the EU has failed to respond with a sense of urgency and care. Despite the inhumane conditions in the camp, the EU States are not willing to relocate people. After repeated calls by the refugees and activists, a small number of unaccompanied minors are set to be relocated to other EU countries.

Germany, France and other EU countries have initially announced plans to take 400 child refugees in total. Following protests in various German cities, the German interior ministry has proposed taking in 1500 refugees.

Compared to millions of refugees in some of the poorer regions of the world, these numbers proposed by the rich European states are still a drop in the ocean and as with the EU Refugee Resettlement Programme in the past, the progress is very slow.

Despite the risk of a major outbreak of coronavirus in the camps and an official capacity of 8000, some 39,000 people are staying in overcrowded refugee camps and residential areas across the Greek islands. According to the UNHCR, around 36% are minors.

The Moria refugee camp is one of many similar sites that were set up along the frontiers of Europe to detain refugees and prevent them from travelling to other European countries. The EU has also made deals with Libya, Turkey and Sudan to prevent refugees from reaching its borders. These camps serve as part of wider EU policies based on denying people a safe and dignified right to seek refuge.

GEN is demanding that all refugees on Lesbos should be given safe passage to Europe and the right to seek refuge; and that refugee deals with Libya, Turkey and Sudan should be cancelled.

Refugees: Not just a number

The world has seen the doubling of the global refugee numbers over the past three decades, reaching a record number of more than 70 million today. Most of these people were displaced by war, conflict, oppressive regimes or chronic poverty. Climate change-related human displacements are happening more frequently and in ever growing numbers. Climate refugees will further add to this number and deepen the ongoing refugee crisis. 

The Geneva Refugee Convention  and its 1967 Protocol have been ratified by almost 150 states to date. The definition of refugees in the Convention was actually intended to exclude internally displaced persons, economic migrants and victims of natural disasters. Therefore it pledges no provision for migrants fleeing climate change-related or environmental disasters.

The World Bank estimates that by 2050, there will be 143 million climate change-driven migrants from the regions of Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia alone.

Wars, oppressive regimes and chronic poverty are the realities of the world and the global system we live in today. These are the creation of the economic and political ruling classes. So is climate change. 

Despite the growing outcry and global campaigns, the ruling classes are not willing to act on it. Capitalism – an economic and social system based on competitive exploitation and production for profit – is the cause of climate crisis and the climate refugees are a consequence.

Today, powerful rulers continue to create these problems while blocking the refugees from finding safety. Looking back at the past 10 years, since the beginning of the latest refugee crisis that began in 2011, the very same rulers have concerned themselves only with building stronger border controls, higher border walls and stopping the refugees at all costs. 

Border barbarism is capitalism’s solution to climate change and its human consequences.

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