The Moria Refugee Camp on the island of Lesvos, Greece is the largest refugee camp in Europe. The camp has an official capacity of just over 2,000 people. But the population is now more than 17,000, with most people living in makeshift shelters in fields and olive groves on the island.
In recent months the number of refugees arriving at Lesvos by boat from Turkey has sharply increased. This is following the breakdown of a 2016 agreement between Turkey and the European Union in which Turkey largely stopped boat departures from its shores. Now, thousands of refugees are once again arriving on the Greek Islands. Over 3,000 people have arrived in November alone.
Needless to say, the conditions on the island of Lesvos are horrendous. People are stuck there, seemingly in perpetual limbo as they asylum claims are processed and they await transfer to the mainland.
On the line with me to discuss the situation on Lesvos is Dr. Siyana Shaffi. She is the founder of the NGO Kitrinos Healthcare which provides healthcare to refugees in Greece. She recently returned from Camp Moria when we spoke in November and in this conversation she gives you a real sense of the harsh conditions faced by refugees stranded on an island in Europe.
Since we spoke, the government of Greece announced somewhat nebulous plans to close the camp and transfer its residents to effective prisons on the mainland. It is unclear, though, if that will actually happen. This episode gives you a grounds-eye view of how Europe’s harsh treatment of refugees is impacting thousands of people stuck on an island.