FAIRFIELD, Conn. (Nov. 25, 2016) – Following reports of the tragic death of a 6-year-old child and woman during a fire in Moria detention center last night on the Greek island of Lesvos, Save the Children is calling on the EU and the Greek government to urgently work to tackle overcrowding in refugee camps on the islands by moving people to safe and open facilities on the mainland.
The fire was reportedly started accidently by people cooking inside their tent and quickly spread. Others, including the child’s mother and another 4-year-old child, suffered severe burns. Moria is extremely crowded, hosting around 5,000 people in facilities designed to hold 2,000.
"This fire – one of many recent incidents – highlights the failure of the EU and the Greek government to provide a safe environment for asylum seekers in Greece,” said Andreas Ring, Greece Response Director for Save the Children.
"It’s incomprehensible that until now, conditions have not improved for thousands of children and families trapped on the islands since the EU-Turkey deal came into effect in March. It’s almost winter and people are still living in shabby tents, bathrooms continue to be overcrowded, and services are over-stretched.
"European leaders must take responsibility for this incident. The lack of political will and the inefficiency of the EU bureaucracy should be equally condemned for the overcrowded conditions on the islands.
"It’s unacceptable that children fleeing death back home, die in Europe as they wait for paperwork to be completed. The EU and member states continue to drag their feet on family reunification and the relocation of asylum seekers, leaving people languishing in sub-standard camps.
“In September this year, when a fire ripped through Moria, Save the Children warned European leaders and the Greek authorities that the camp was a high risk environment and it was only a matter of days or months before someone was killed. We are utterly dismayed no action was taken then and our predication has become a heartbreaking reality."
With winter setting in, families are more likely to start cooking inside their tents which means that if facilities are not upgraded immediately, we could be seeing many more incidents like this where children could be killed and injured.
"As these tragic deaths show, the squalid conditions of Moria detention center are no place for children. The Greek camps are at breaking point, and freezing temperatures and overcrowding are only likely to worsen this crisis during winter. EU and Greek leaders must step up and act now; children forced to flee deserve better," said Carolyn Miles, Save the Children president & CEO.
Save the Children’s mother and baby area, as well as the child friendly space in Moria, are open today and hosting mothers and children in the camp. A separate team is assessing the damage and needs of the mothers and children affected by the fire to determine the best way to intervene.
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