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Cordaid NL
Cordaid Humanitarian Aid Greece

Moria tragedy: a wakeup call for migrant safety and European solidarity

Alarmed and shocked by the tragedy that is unfolding in Moria refugee camp, Cordaid calls for the EU to act immediately. Refugees on Lesbos need to be evacuated and hosted by EU member states. To prevent future tragedies, EU migrant and asylum policies need to be anchored in human rights and dignity.

Fires have destroyed the biggest part of Moria refugee camp. They have equally destroyed the shelter and frugal belongings of 12.000 migrants. These residents – totaling 4 times the camp’s capacity – had already been living for months and even years in the most wretched and inhuman conditions, while waiting for their asylum applications to be processed.

Chronic inhumanity

This chronic inhumanity and lack of European solidarity transformed Moria into Europe’s human ditch. What happened this week is a tragedy that has been in the making for years. Now, after having fled from war, degrading poverty, and prosecution, thousands are yet again bereft of shelter and security.

EU Member States have to host Moria survivors

“The humanitarian situation on Lesbos is such that Moria residents need to be evacuated immediately.  Proportionately, EU Member States need to relocate them, providing shelter, security and other amenities for a life in dignity”, says Cordaid CEO Kees Zevenbergen.

Chronic inhumanity and lack of European solidarity transformed Moria into Europe’s human ditch.

“Last April, we already called for the government of the Netherlands to take up 500 child refugees from the Greek islands. Given today’s humanitarian catastrophe, we call upon our government to follow the example of the German federal state Nordrhein-Westfalen and to host a minimum of 1000 Moria migrants who are now in Greece”, Zevenbergen continues.


It seems that COVID-19 and the fear of virus transmission have played an important role in the start of the fires. Fleeing Moria, migrants are now being traced in order to locate residents who had tested positive for the virus. Fear of the virus is fuelling fear of refugees. Nevertheless, of 2000 Moria residents that were tested only 35 positive cases emerged. Given the severe lack of means of prevention and the bad hygienic conditions in the camp, this only goes to show that residents took great efforts to reduce the outbreak.

Relief efforts in progress

Cordaid applauds the work of Caritas Hellas on the ground, assessing needs and providing water, food, and other immediate support. Caritas Hellas is also distributing sleeping bags and other non-food items among refugees in the streets of Lesbos.

EU Migration Pact

While EU leaders are finalizing the upcoming asylum and migration pact, Moria has to serve as a final wakeup call, warning decision-makers to thoroughly reform their failing migration policies. The upcoming EU Migration Pact, expected for 30 September, should prevent a tragedy of this kind ever to unfold again.

Call for action by Pope Francis 4 years ago

More than 4 years ago Pope Francis visited Moria camp. By that time the situation was already degrading and inhuman, urging him to call for immediate action: “A broader international consensus and an assistance programme are urgently needed to uphold the rule of law, to defend human rights in this unsustainable situation, to protect minorities, combat human trafficking, to eliminate unsafe routes and to develop safe resettlement procedures.”

4 years down the line, nothing has changed and the urgency to act has reached unprecedented levels.

Political trade-off

Meanwhile, the Dutch House of Representatives debated the government’s plan to allow 50 children and 50 vulnerable people from Moria to enter the asylum procedure in the Netherlands. These 100 – a very low number given the 12.000 people made homeless by the Moria tragedy – are deducted from the Dutch quota in the UNHCR resettlement program. Meaning that, after Moria, not one extra refugee will be welcomed by the Netherlands.

Moreover, the Dutch asylum and return policy will be further tightened. “This political trade-off on the back of refugees is extremely disappointing. We are also concerned about the precedent that this political agreement sets for other European member states. Despite broad public support, from churches, civil society organisations, and even members of coalition parties, for a generous stance towards refugees, politicians in The Hague did not dare to take their moral responsibility. This is sad, to say the least”, says Zevenbergen. “We can only hope that, after the elections in March, a new cabinet will take up this responsibility.”


For more information read the statement of Caritas Europa.