Moria fires, COMECE urges action to protect asylum seekers

In the context of the tragedy occurred in the Moria camp (Lesvos) on Tuesday 8 September 2020, the Bishops of the European Union urge the EU institutions and all Member States to act more swiftly and firmly to finally make the relocation of asylum seekers from the Greek islands a reality. Card. Hollerich: “we need to enhance the common EU asylum policy”.

TOPSHOT – A migrant stands near tents as a fire burns in the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos on September 9, 2020. – The migrant camp of Moria, on the Greek island of Lesbos, has been partially evacuated after a fire that broke out early on September 9, Greek firefighters announced. “Scattered fires in the meadow around the camp but also inside the structure”, according to the firefighters, caused the evacuation of the largest camp in Europe, which currently houses nearly 12,700 asylum seekers. (Photo by Manolis LAGOUTARIS / AFP) (Credit: MANOLIS LAGOUTARIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Approximately 13,000 people, including hundreds of unaccompanied minors, fled the overcrowded Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesvos as giant fires roared the area between 8-9 September 2020.

While the Greek authorities and humanitarian organisations, including Caritas Europa and the Community of St. Egidio, are racing to provide the emergency accommodation and aid to the homeless asylum seekers, the President of COMECE, H.Em. Card. Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ, reiterates his call on the EU and its Member States to enhance the common EU asylum policy and fairly relocate the asylum seekers among all EU Member States as soon as possible.

“When I met with the refugees at Moria camp – stated the Cardinal recalling his May 2019 visit together with a Papal delegation – I felt deep despair in the heart of the people. Darkness has come in their heart […] and this is due to our inaction”.

“These people came to Europe for help and we left them as refugees in camps. It is a shame for Europe. What is on fire is not only the camp of Moria, but also the identity of Europe. We cannot claim Europe’s Christian roots if we let people in the despair”, continued the Head of EU bishops.

In the context of the final phase of the new EU Pact on Migration and Asylum, which shall address, among other issues, the contentious question of distribution of refugees among EU Member States, the Catholic Church in the EU hopes that this predictable tragedy will serve as a wake-up call.

Earlier this year, when the first cases of Covid-19 were detected in the EU, COMECE urged EU and policy-makers to act with responsibility and solidarity, especially with the most vulnerable, including the many asylum seekers residing in camps with high population density.

Built up with a capacity of 3,000 residents, in these last years the Moria camp hosted in wretched conditions between 13,000 and 20,000 people, including more than 4,000 children, pregnant women, elderly and handicapped people.

Pope Francis’ speech in Moria camp (2016)