Greece's Killing Field: Five Fatally Stabbed in Asylum-Seeker Camp

Published June 11th, 2020 - 07:39 GMT
Moria, Lesvos, Greece  (Shutterstock)
Moria, Lesvos, Greece (Shutterstock)
'Yesterday, people came to our tent asking if we are Hazara or Tajik. We are neither, so both sides now consider us foes,' she said.

A spate of stabbing murders at Greece's largest asylum-seeker camp has left five people dead, including a woman and a young boy. 

The killings happened in the overcrowded camp Moria on the island of Lesbos, which is home to 17,000 people living in squalor. 

Five have been killed in the violence since the start of the year - including a woman and young boy - while ten others have also been injured in the attacks. 

'The situation gets worse every day,' says Muhammad, a Syrian who has been stranded at at Moria with his pregnant wife and their young daughter for the past seven months.

'We fear for our children. Every day there is unrest, and every night they fight with knives'.

Two of the stabbings happened in the central square of the port capital of Mytilene, and residents have expressed concern over a shortage of police officers at the camp. 

Tension between Afghanistan's ethnic Hazaras and Tajik are a frequent source of violence, says Nazifa, a teacher from that country.

'Yesterday, people came to our tent asking if we are Hazara or Tajik. We are neither, so both sides now consider us foes,' she said.

As well as the murders, the overcrowded camp faces fears of a coronavirus outbreak which could claim more lives.  

The camp has been under lockdown since March 18 which has been extended three times, most recently to June 21.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) this week criticised the lockdown extension as 'discriminatory' and 'counter-productive.'

'The extension of movement restrictions imposed on asylum seekers who are living in the Greek reception centres will further reduce their already limited access to basic services and medical care', Marco Sandrone, the group's Lesbos field coordinator said in a statement.

'In the current phase of the COVID-19 epidemic, it is absolutely not justified from a public health point of view,' he said.

'This population doesn't represent a risk. They are at risk,' Sandrone said, noting that people were trapped in overcrowded camps with limited access to water and sanitation, and where social distancing measures were 'just impossible' to apply.

The Greek government had planned to relocate more than 2,300 asylum seekers from island camps to the mainland, including elderly and ill people, but the operation has been stalled by the pandemic.

The UN refugee agency had also urged last month that the exceptional measures be lifted 'as soon as possible'.

Ibrahim, a former mechanic from Kabul, says the restrictions are preventing him from obtaining food for his family.

'We can no longer go to town and we have to buy supplies at the camp store,' he said.

'We tried to go once, but the police turned us back.'

He agrees that the biggest concern in Moria is public safety.

'There are 100 police for 20,000 residents,' he said.

The migration ministry has said that small groups of camp residents are allowed out at regular intervals to obtain supplies, under police supervision.

Fardeen, a 17-year-old Afghan, has been stranded at the camp for nine months.

He says that other residents, who were allowed into Mytilene for medical appointments, saw no Greeks wearing masks on the street.

'(The locals) don't seem to care much about the virus. Are these measures only for migrants? Am I different?' he asks.

'Today the police turned us away from the beach. Swimming is one of the few things that helps us forget about living in Moria,' he said.

Dozens of Africans last month marched out of a hotel near the Peloponnese town of Kranidi to protest against a total lockdown imposed in April after more than 150 people at the facility tested positive for coronavirus.

Authorities extended the Kranidi hotel lockdown to June 14 after three more cases were discovered in May.

More than 31,000 asylum seekers live in the five camps on the Aegean islands, with a total capacity of 6,095 people.

The migration ministry has recently stepped up asylum procedures, sorting through more than 6,000 requests in May.

Hundreds of refugees who have secured asylum have been queueing daily at the port of Mytilene, and over 500 have boarded ferries to Piraeus since last week, local news website StoNisi said.

This article has been adapted from its original source.     

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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