|Posted by moodhacker on January 28, 2017 at 8:45 AM|
Greek authorities were under fire in December for mishandling $95 million of a jointly managed fund set aside for improving winter conditions in its refugee camps.
Aid groups were further aggravated after the minister for migration, Yiannis Mouzalas, told journalists at a news conference on January 5, that there were no refugees or migrants living in the cold, a statement which numerous organizations and media debunked.
“Greek authorities must stop congratulating themselves on humanitarian achievements while thousands of people are left to suffer in harsh winter elements as they wait for their asylum claims to be processed,” Clement Perrin, MSF’s head of mission in Greece, said in a statement on January 9. “No person seeking protection, fleeing war, torture and extreme violence should be left out in the cold.”, Clemen Perrin said accordi8ng to humanosphere
"There are no refugees or migrants living in the cold anymore," Mouzalas had told journalists at a news conference Thursday, January 5, just a few hours before the disastrous snowfall started . According to local reports, Mouzalas suggested that there were only a handful of tents left in Vayiohori, near Thessaloniki, and Athens.forgetting Moria
CNNreport , Moria, January 9
Snow blanketed the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, home to more than 4,000 people, on January 10, the cnn wrote .
Roland Schönbauer, a spokesman for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), told CNN that the organization was transferring some 120 vulnerable men, women and children, including people still living in tents, to hotels following the storm.
A migrant receives food during snowfall at the Moria camp on Lesbos, on January 9, 2017.
The situation in Moria is fluid, and the spokesman did not have an estimate for the number of people still living in tents.
Volunteers say thousands of refugees are still living in outdoor tents in the camp, despite statements by Greece's minister for migration, Yiannis Mouzalas, indicating otherwise.
Welcome2Lesvos 14 January, 2017 –
... The snow is melting, but the weather forecast is for another cold spell for Greece. The following is an attempt to get across what has been happening on Lesvos in the last ten days.
Snow storm in Greece, including on Lesvos. Of the 6500 refugees currently on the island, 3500 have been living in tents in the so-called hotspot Moria. None of them have been evacuated. Snow gets into the tents, onto the beds, onto blankets, into clothes – there is nowhere to dry off or to warm up.
While photos start spreading on social media, the UNHCR and NGOs try to rent hotel rooms in order to evacuate people from their tents.
However, the president of the Lesvos hotel owners association, Periklis Antoniou, re-iterates the organisation’s decision from three months ago not to rent out any rooms to refugees or to NGOs. The Syriza MP for Lesvos, Giorgos Pallis, has tried unsuccessfully to change that decision.
The hotel owners justify their policy saying that if they rented out rooms to refugees, then Lesvos would no longer be a tourist destination but a giant registration centre.
Meanwhile immigration minister Mouzalas is back pedalling on his earlier statement, He meant that on the mainland no refugees were living in tents, of course on the islands the situation was really bad.
In his view, it’s all the fault of the hotel owners who are refusing to let to refugees
However, we know that the situation is as bad as it is mainly because Mouzalas had interpreted the EU-Turkey agreement to mean that no refugees should be transferred from the islands to the mainland Wlecome 2Lesvos wrote .
‘Despite the Greek government’s assertions that the relevant measures had been successfully completed, winter preparations for migrants and refugees stuck on Greek islands have failed,’ the Doctors Without Borders medical aid group said.
In Brussels, Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said the commission was ‘doing its utmost to support the Greek authorities to address concerns relating to the reception centers and the humanitarian needs on the ground.”
‘Of course, ensuring adequate reception conditions and managing the refugee centers in Greece is a responsibility first and foremost of the Greek authorities,” she added.
Asked specifically about refugees enduring sub-freezing temperatures, she said the commission was ‘aware that the situation is currently untenable, but we also have to be clear’ that conditions in reception centers are the responsibility of Greek authorities. “We can no more dictate policy in Greece than we can in any other member state.”
The government decidedto send a navy ship to Lesvos to provide accommodation for 500 people, so they say, while the cold spell lasts. The ship arrives the next day, but instead of 500 it only has capacity for 250. But not even that many people are keen. The refugees are afraid to board a ship, scared that they will be taken to Turkey
Below is the answer to Minister Mouzalas by a Lesvos hotelier , representing the view of the association, as it was said , after her letter to the ministry was published open, in english on social media .
January 14 at 1:58pm ·
Dear Mr. Mouzalas, Minister of Immigration Policy:
A few days ago you addressed the hoteliers of Lesvos, stating that "their hotels are not their homes" and that it is their fault that the refugees in Moria are suffering in the extreme winter conditions which hit Lesvos a few days ago. Each time I read this statement, my heart is pierced again and again as you cannot be more wrong.
These hotels, Mr. Mouzalas, ARE our homes. They are our lives, our dreams, our hopes. They are not lifeless entities or multinational corporations with huge investors sitting safely in the background. They have been built upon the sacrifices, struggles and agonies of men and women who naively dared to dream that this would be their legacy, which they would leave behind for their children and grandchildren. These hotels are alive and have souls. They are families which consist not only of mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. They consist of every single person who has also worked in these hotels, along with each of their families. They consist of every single colleague and supplier with whom they have worked, along with each of their families. They consist of every single guest who has come year after year along with their families.
Our hotels ARE our homes. My parents spent every last cent they had after having worked 18 years as migrants in the United States, with the sole hope and dream to one day return to their homeland, Greece, to build on the very strip of land that my own father's family had lived on as farmers. My family's hotel is where I have spent my childhood, my teenage years, and my summers coming home from university. It is where my most beloved and most difficult memories have been created. It is where my heart was broken for the first time. It is where year after year, from the dawn to dusk, we have shed tears, sweat and blood to keep it alive, to pay our loans, our taxes, our colleagues. It is where my children were born. It is where I breastfed my children by the sea and where they learned to walk and swim for the first time. It is where my cousins and friends were married. It is where my beloved uncle used to fish on the rocks and bring us sea urchins for lunch. It is where my parents have grown white and wrinkled with time as the moment quickly approaches when it will be my turn to take over the reigns alongside my sister and husband so that we too may leave a legacy for our children. Mr. Mouzalas, if this is not a home, then what is?
And please don't tell me that the refugees and migrants suffering on Lesvos have risked their lives in plastic dinghies to get here because they are fleeing war, terrorism and poverty and we must help them. I KNOW THIS FIRST HAND. I was there. My family was there- every single moment of every single day for almost a year on the beach of our hotel- on the beach of my home, when dinghy after dinghy would arrive nonstop.
Where were you, Mr. Mouzalas and where was my government? Where was the EU and the rest of the western world in 2015, before any volunteers or NGOs ever arrived on Lesvos and on the rest of the Northern Aegean islands, to help us?
Where were you when we had 400 people freezing on our beach and were calling the police, the coastguard and the medical centers for help and the only reply we received over and over again was, "We are so sorry- but you are on your own. We cannot help you because we too are understaffed and alone. We have no one to help you."
Where were you when we were running to patch up broken heads, people with hypothermia or being handed babies wrapped in plastic bags by their parents to protect them from the freezing water as they were tumbling out onto the rocky shore?
Where were you, where was the local government and where was the media when we were giving water, clothes, food, first aid, transportation and cleaning our beaches over and over and over again, day after day, all at our own expenses?
Where were you to help us when our lives were threatened by a smuggler as he pulled a knife out on us within one meter of me?
For me, it felt as if you were nowhere.
Do you know who was there, though? My "family". It was our employees, our guests, our friends from the surrounding villages who came to our side for all those months. And when the volunteers arrived, it was countless numbers of strangers who came to our aid because our government did not. All we asked for was for some help so that we too wouldn't be lost in this human wave arriving on our shores- so that we may be able to continue to help and support in any way we could. This help never arrived, but still we helped, even though we were left alone and we knew deep down in our hearts that what we were doing would soon become our own downfall, due to the fact that the government and the EU was purposefully failing to take action. Still we helped because it was the humane thing to do and we would do it again because we were not willing to pay the price of losing our own humanity.
But where were you Mr. Mouzalas and the Greek government in 2016 when tourism plummeted almost 70% on the northern part of the island, to help the very people who were on the forefront of this unprecedented refugee crisis?
Where were you when we had to tell our employees of many years that we would not be able to support them and their families with a job, leaving them unemployed, unable to receive unemployment benefits and health insurance?
Where were you when my friends had to close their shops and become migrants themselves to other countries because Greece had forsaken them?
Where are you and the government now, when all these small and middle-sized family-run businesses are failing to pay their loans and abide by their obligations, leaving them in danger of losing their "homes" and becoming migrants themselves?
I am sorry, Mr. Mouzalas, but if you truly cared about the refugees and the state in which they have been living in for almost a year now, you would have taken action months and months ago. The EU-Turkey agreement was signed in March 2016, so why did we have to arrive at the year 2017 to suddenly feel the urgency to take action? Did we not know that winter was going to arrive again with extreme conditions and that so many people were living in limbo in Moria camp? Is it because the international press and social media have put pressure on the local congressmen, politicians and on the Ministry of Immigration? Instead of winterizing these camps, instead of renting closed warehouses, instead of offering government owned buildings which are closed, instead of using the money provided by the EU to prepare these facilities, it is suddenly the fault of the hoteliers that the refugees are suffering in these extreme weather conditions?
You ask for hotels to open. Which hotels do you mean? The ones that are already open and are immediately accessible for use and have been housing NGOs, volunteers and refugees
on occasion already, or the ones that have been closed for months now as they are not able to run during the winter months due to the fact that they are seasonal hotels with facilities suitable only for the hot summer months?
You state that "it is an indignity to civilization to not open your hotels." Do you have any idea what opening a closed hotel entails when you say that? Do you think that these hotels would not already have been opened to support their families during the winter months if they could? Do you not care that you are asking families to bear a weight and a cost that they are literally and physically unable to bear because they are already broken? How much more do you think all these families can bear? Shouldn't it be at the liberty and discretion of each business, of each family, of each citizen to decide if, how and to what degree they are able to help? But mustn't they be able to secure their own existence as well? Instead, the easy solution for many is to place labels such as "racists" and "inhumane" on the locals by people.
By making such statements, you are merely trying to reallocate your responsibilities and obligations and you are trying to create a smokescreen to hide your own shortcomings and mistakes. By failing to realize this, you are failing twofold....firstly by not providing a solution to the inhumane conditions that the refugees and migrants are forced to endure and then again by failing to protect and support the local families which have been crying for help from the Greek government and the EU for months, as their livelihoods and spirit have been crushed devastatingly. Is this not an "indignity to civilization" and an indignity to all these families?
Please, Mr. Mouzalas, do not become co responsible for the subjugation of ALL these families. I implore you to rise to the occasion and provide a humanitarian solution for the sake of and for the benefit of all the human beings stuck in these hell-hole limbo camps, and for the sake of and for the benefit of all the local families and businesses which, too, have been forgotten and ignored in a state of limbo on all the all Aegean islands. The plight of the refugees and immigrants and the consequent plight of the local communities are two different situations which are united and intertwined at the same time.
Please, Mr. Mouzalas, rise to the occasion and provide a humanitarian solution which will take into consideration all these dimensions instead of playing with the lives and turning the refugees, the migrants and the local communities against each other.
Aphrodite Vati Mariola
photos of Moria Camp in Lesvos : metro, UK