Moria / Lesbos: Tear gas and beatings continue while families wait in the mud all the night

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras visited Lesbos island on October 6, accompanied by Austrian chancellor Werner Feymann, to ostensibly appraise the refugee crisis on the islands firsthand, but what they saw there did not correspond to the everyday reality as thousands of refugees had left in four unscheduled extra ferries beforehand, the port had been cleaned, bus transportation of refugees from the north of the island to the camps had been halted, suddenly no boats were crossing the sea border just for the time during the short visit and his visit in Moria camp was focused on an inspection of the almost empty First Reception Centre, while in the meanwhile a few meters further inside the fenced territory at the pre-removal detention centre where registration takes place the desperate crowds were repressed by riot police with tear gas and severe beatings.

Queue of single men after tear gas attacks and beatings when registration halted / copyright: Salinia Stroux

Queue of single men after tear gas attacks and beatings when registration halted / copyright: Salinia Stroux

Hundreds of refugees coming mainly from Afghanistan and Iraq were trying yesterday again to get registered in Moria – often for the third and fourth day. Especially many of the highly vulnerable, such as families with babies and toddlers, handicapped and sick persons or elderly couldn’t manage to pass through the crowds around the gates, the clouds of tear gas and the beatings of the riot police.

It is 3 o’clock in the night. At the upper gates of Moria two police busses are blocking the way of dozens women children and men who are queueing all through the day and the night even though registration halted for a few hours in the night. A woman sitting on the wet and muddy floor near the police blockade and holding her sick baby girl in the arms is talking with tears in her eyes:

“We queued for hours yesterday and before yesterday. One time we reached the gate but panic broke out and police threw gas on our children so we had to give up for the sake of their health. The other time we reached again near the gates but suddenly they told us registration had stopped. Then they told us families should queue from the upper gate so we came here. Now they are telling us that entrance will not be permitted through this gate at all so we should leave. I am sure in a few hours they change their system again. No one knows where to queue and when and ho to reach inside. Our children are suffering without food and water in the cold outside. Since three days we are here in the camp and another three day it took us to arrive here from where we reached the island. We are so tired. Today it was the first time after two weeks we had warm food. My children couldn’t believe they got something proper to eat.”

One of the fathers in the knot of people seems angry and desperate:

“We merely survived the crossing of the sea from Turkey. We all fell in the sea. Now we arrived in Europe. We shouldn’t be risking the lives of our children in this camp run by the government, but my 3-year-old got lost and run over by the panicking masses today. An Afghan man saved him and lifted him in the air. An adult man who witnessing the suffering of my son was crying.”

Behind the fences of Moria in the neighboring field of olive trees families and single men alike have lit some fires to warm their bodies as they lack tents and blankets. A family of a mother and a father with three children of which one is younger than one year are sitting on a plastic. The children are awake shivering from the cold.

A buggy is hanging on the barbed wire of Morias' "First Reception Centre" / copyright: Salinia Stroux

A buggy is hanging on the barbed wire of Morias’ “First Reception Centre” / copyright: Salinia Stroux

Inside Moria dozens of mothers and children are waiting to be registered since many hours. Some of them are already a day locked up. The authorities brought them inside but didn’t give them neither blankets, nor food or water. Without the help of volunteers they would stay imprisoned suffering hunger and thirst and cold. Even though shivering from the cold a young mother asks just for food. Her children are so hungry that they have forgotten everything else.

Meanwhile among the clouds of families queueing in front of the gate in the cold is a man with his wife and four children. He has an old injury at his leg from a bomb explosion and suffers constantly from pain. His medication got lost during the dangerous crossing of the sea. He is crying:

“I am trying to bring my family to the gates but I cannot. My leg s not strong enough. I don’t care for myself. It is for the sake of my children. What have they done wrong to be treated like this? Why don’t they just kill us. That would be more human than what we go through here.”

With the words of a dear friend:

“These human beings are escaping from their homes to find security, respect and humanity, but in the very first moments they reach Europe they experience discrimination and inhumane treatment.”

The European system has created first and second class refugees. In Moria refugee try to survive the time they have to spend there. While registration procedures for Syrians have been fastened up to maximal 2-3 hours per person and a functioning registration system has been set up in their separate camp, all other nationalities are sent to Moria. They confront barbed wire, tear gas and police violence in the forgotten camp. Also NGOs up to now have been mainly focussing on addressing the needs of Syrians in Kara Tepe camp, while refugees in Moria are left to survive.