I think I share the feelings of many of you. Watching the pictures from Moria after the fire. But also before the fire.
One of the goals I’ve been working on, to find and present a new pact on Migration and Asylum, to be able to come to a solution where we can agree to come to a common European Migration and Asylum, one important aim is: no more Morias.
I have said many times, here in Parliament, that: the conditions in Moria are unacceptable. And now it has just got worse.
The pictures and reports remind us that the people in Moria are just like us.
Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.
People – men, women, old people, and all too many children.
Who already had little, now have nothing
People running away from the fire. Families torn apart. People sleeping on the burnt ground under the sky.
What we know.
On Tuesday at midnight, fires started in several parts of Moria reception centre.
A large part of the population ran into the surrounding areas and hills. Others fled to the city of Mytilene, and the vicinity of the Kara Tepe centre.
On Wednesday, two fires burned down another part of the Moria centre.
In practice, the Moria centre no longer exists.
How these fires started is not yet clear. And I will not speculate.
No-one died or needed to go to hospital.
And that’s of course, luckily, a very good outcome
But 12,362 people are now in need of shelter. Acute need.
Our first priority must be: the children. All remaining 406 unaccompanied minors in Moria have been transferred to the Greek mainland. With the Commission’s help and financial support. And we did that, the first day.
I can today announce, that the unaccompanied minors on the other islands will be moved to safety, as well.
And we already have started as you know the relocation of unaccompanied minors to other Member States. And now we will step up on this and continue this coordination and relocation, of unaccompanied minors.
I’m also worried about the most vulnerable people: families with children, the elderly, pregnant women.
I have recently written a letter together with the Presidency, German minister Seehofer, to all Member States, we asked them to step in, to do more voluntary relocations, and more of this voluntary solidarity is necessary, now.
Our immediate focus right now is to provide food and shelter and to prevent suffering. And to support the Greek authorities, to this end.
Last week, Vice President Schinas travelled to Greece to assess the situation.
The Commission has been in constant contact with Greek authorities, and the German Presidency.
On 12 September, Greece asked for assistance under the Union Civil Protection Mechanism.
Now we have 12 Member States, that have already offered support: shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene products, and medical assistance.
Already more than 100,000 items have been included in this so far.
Our Emergency Response Coordination Centre is coordinating this effort, facilitating delivery and co-financing transport.
Other Member States are providing medical teams and shelter on a bilateral basis.
Reportedly, the supply of food and water has been secured.
700 Tents and 7 Rub Halls have now been installed to provide shelter. Which could house an estimated 5,000 people today. Vulnerable people and women with children are receiving priority. At the beginning of this week, 800 people were living in these tents.
Progress is slow. In part, perhaps, because all these people are being tested for Covid. And those who are found positive are being kept in isolation. But also, because people are afraid to enter the new tent centre.
We have to remember, that these people are in a very difficult situation.
Our agencies, EASO and Frontex, are on the ground offering support.
For example: The offices of the Greek asylum service in Moria have been completely destroyed. But asylum interviews will resume in Lesvos in the coming days.
These emergency measures build on our efforts over the last six months.
You have heard me before saying at the beginning of my mandate the conditions in these overcrowded reception centres on the Greek islands as being unacceptable. And when I started, when I took office, there where 50,000 people living in the centres on the islands.
And now it’s half. In Moria we’ve gone in six months from 25,000 people, to 12,000 people
It’s still too many.
It’s still unacceptable.
But I’ve pushed for change and numbers are going down thanks to the efforts of the Greek authorities. And thanks to the efforts of the European Commission.
We put in place a programme, to give unaccompanied minors a new chance at a life in Europe. One Member State also decided to welcome sick children with their families – so we now are now on track to relocate 2,000 unaccompanied teenagers and children together with families and now we can top that up with new pledges from Member States.
Every week, a plane is leaving to a welcoming Member State.
In Moria, we went from 1200 unaccompanied minors to 400. And these 400 have now also been moved to safety, as I just said.
The last six months, we have also made efforts to build more and better reception facilities.
You know, Moria has been destroyed.
Right now, the acute task is to give shelter, food medicine.
A new permanent and proper centre is now a priority.
But there can be no more Morias.
We need a fresh start on migration, and this is the right moment, as President von der Leyen said yesterday in the State of the European Union.
In her inspiring speech, she said:
“Migration has always been a fact for Europe – and it will always be. Throughout centuries, it has defined our societies, enriched our cultures and shaped many of our lives. And this will always be the case.”
I could not agree more. That’s what I have always said.
Moria is not normal. But migration is normal, it is something that we can manage.
Moria is a leftover of the 2015 migration crisis. But times have changed.
In 2015, almost 2 million people fled to Europe, crossing our borders irregularly. Now it’s 140,000 people arriving, irregularly arriving.
In 2015, most refugees were from Syria, and 90% received refugee status. Now the majority, two thirds, are not entitled to international protection.
The situation has changed. But the need for a common European policy and common European legislation to manage migration is still there.
As President von der Leyen said: We want a constructive approach towards migration because it will always be with us. A “human and humane approach”.
Saving lives at sea is not optional.
A closer link between asylum and returns
Fighting smugglers, working with external partners and creating legal pathways to Europe.
Welcoming people who have the right to stay, and helping them integrate.
Solidarity with those countries who fulfil their legal and moral duties, or are most under pressure.
And with all Member States taking their share of the responsibility.