The overcrowded Moria Reception and Identification Center, a “hotspot” for asylum seekers and migrants in Greece has become unsafe for women and girls as they face relentless insecurity while waiting for processing. Human Rights Watch has released a video that shows the dire conditions.
As of December 02, the center located on Lesbos Island was holding nearly 16,800 people in a facility with capacity for fewer than 3,000.
Overcrowding has led authorities, as well as some asylum seekers and migrants themselves, to erect shelters outside Moria’s fenced boundaries, first in the adjacent area called the Olive Grove and now in a second olive grove, which has no water and sanitation facilities.
In all areas, women and girls, including those traveling alone, are living alongside unrelated men and boys, often in tents without secure closures.
“Just going to the bathroom feels too risky for women and girls in Moria,” said Hillary Margolis, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Their lives are defined by fear, and that won’t change unless the Greek government addresses the pervasive dangers they face.”
During research on Lesbos in October, Human Rights Watch found women and girls in and around Moria lack safe access to essential resources and services including shelter, food, water and sanitation, and medical care.
Women and girls said they avoid leaving their shelters or using the toilets, bathing, or waiting in food distribution lines due to fear. Parents said they do not allow their daughters to go out unaccompanied, including attending school.
A high-level Greek official said during a call with Human Rights Watch that maintaining adequate conditions in the camps is impossible, especially following recent large numbers of arrivals, because Greece is hosting asylum seekers and migrants well beyond the facilities’ capacity.
He noted the pressure on Greece and lack of support from other European Union countries. “Greece cannot be the gatekeeper of Europe, as it is being asked to be by the EU, and also be expected to respect human rights fully,” he said.
Conditions in Moria violate Greece’s obligations to migrants and asylum seekers under international law and fall far below standards of treatment developed for humanitarian emergencies around the world, Human Rights Watch said.
Under Greek law, the authorities should identify “vulnerable” people, including pregnant women and new mothers, survivors of sexual and other serious violence, single parents with children under 18, and people with disabilities, and refer them to appropriate support services and accommodation. This may include housing in apartments outside of Moria.
“Women and girls who have come to Greece seeking safety are finding the exact opposite at Moria, and the situation is only getting worse,” Margolis said. “The Greek government has a duty to make sure women and girls don’t have to hide in tents all day out of fear.” (Source: HRW)