Almost three months after a devastating fire, the European Union (EU) and Greece signed an agreement, Thursday, December 3, for the establishment by September 2021 of a new reception camp for migrants on the island of Lesbos. This new camp must replace that of Moria destroyed in September.
The support of the European Union in the management of this new ” reception center “ will be unprecedented, and the agreement provides for a division of responsibilities between the Commission, the Greek authorities and the EU agencies.
After the destruction of the insanitary Moria camp, the largest in Europe, a provisional camp was established on the island. More than 7,300 asylum seekers, including children, the disabled and the sick, crowd into tents, without heating or hot water as winter approaches.
In the new camp, “We will provide decent conditions for arriving migrants and refugees, and also support the inhabitants on the Greek islands”, said the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in a press release, where she also underlines the need to “Rapid and fair procedures” for the examination of asylum applications. For migrants, “The centers should only be a temporary stop before their return (to their country of origin or transit) or their integration”, specifies Mme von der Leyen.
“An important step”
The Commission plans to devote around € 130 million for the sites in Lesbos and Chios, the vast majority of which for Lesbos. In addition, 121 million euros were allocated last month for the construction of three smaller camps on the islands of Samos, Kos and Leros.
“This agreement is an important step (…) to ensure that a situation like that of Moria cannot happen again”, added the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson. She felt that this new camp “Marked a change in the way of understanding migration management, and paves the way for putting into practice the guiding principles of the new pact on migration and asylum”.
The European Commission presented at the end of September a project to reform the common asylum policy, a highly sensitive issue on which the search for a compromise is extremely difficult, five years after the 2015 migration crisis.
Lesvos, in the Aegean Sea as well as other Greek islands close to the western coasts of neighboring Turkey, is one of the main entry points for migrants to Europe. Greece has considerably reduced the number of arrivals in 2020, but living conditions in the reception camps remain particularly trying.