Refugees demonstrate against new asylum law

On Monday, February 3, a group of Moria refugee–camp protesters were met with tear gas by Greek police forces. While some local politicians are calling for government action to better safeguard the refugees, others show less understanding of the refugees’ situation and the relief efforts being made by A Drop in the Ocean, among others.

en nedslitt teltleir med klessnorer og presenninger
Foto: Knut Bry

Shortly after 10am, around 2,000 people walked out of Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos, to stage a peaceful protest against the inhumane conditions in which they’re forced to live and the new asylum law adapted by the Greek government.  The law benefits refugees who have arrived after January 1st this year, which means that the new arrivals will be given priority when it comes to processing their asylum applications first. 

The Greek police forces made several attempts to stop the protesters from entering the city. Large groups of protesters tried to get past the police barricades, fires were lit and some of the refugees fled up the mountains.  

The Police then responded by using tear gas, even though a lot of young children were present. Pictures of crying children, trying to flush their eyes, have been all over the  international media.

Around 300 of the protesters were able to pass the barricades. They then attempted to set up a tent in front of the public theatre in Mytilíni, followed by a sit in demonstration that lasted for about three and a half hours.  

At 4pm, the protesters were transported back to the refugee camp by large police forces.

This is the second demonstration in Moria in just a few days. 

Calls for a governmental plan

Several local politicians have stated that promises from the government to improve the situation in the refugee camp and on the island, is only that, promises. Several seems to believe that the government has left the island. They call for a plan from the government on have to handle the current situation, but states that they rather experience passivity.  

Questions asked are if the government’s wish is to close the camps, which in practice will mean that the island becomes a prison? How else can one interpret the new asylum law passed by the government, where asylum applications from new arrivals are evaluated first at the expense of the human rights of the many thousands waiting to have their applications processed? Considering this law, with the proposal of using waternets between Turkey and Greece, the generally poor living-conditions in the camp and the poor food, it is no wonder that both refugees and inhabitants of the island demonstrates, some say.

Will stay closed and out of camp until further notice

However, yesterday’s demonstrations, did not meet this much understanding from everyone. A Drop in the Ocean coordinators and volunteers on site, as well as other help organisations present at Lesvos,  did experience threatening behaviour from different right-wing groups that claim that the aid organizations are making the situation worse by helping refugees who have arrived on the island. In addition to threatening behaviour, several cars used by aid organizations have also been destroyed. 

During the riots and the hostile environment in Moria village, A Drop in the Ocean have chosen to stop all our activities until further notice. Both at the Drop Centre and inside the camp. 

Everything is fine with our volunteers and coordinators, but of course we are sorry that our activities aimed at the most vulnerable will have to take a little break. Our volunteers at the Kitrinos clinic have also been evacuated for the time being. 

For any further questions, please contact our head office  +47 482 97 381 

Sources: A Drop in the Ocean Lesvos