Moria: European Parliament debate response to fire at migrant camp

The European Parliament held a session on Thursday in response to the crisis caused after tens of thousands of migrants were left homeless by a fire in the Moria camp on Lesbos.

The EU lawmakers discussed the need for an urgent response during the debate.

Over 12,000 people were left with nowhere to live after a fire ripped through Greece’s largest migrant camp last week. 

Read more: Opinion: The helpless hand of humanity after Moria fire

The European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson began the parliamentary debate saying, “the pictures remind us that the people in Moria are just like us.”

She expressed her relief that nobody had needed hospital care, but pointed out that now “2,362 people are now in need of shelter, acute need.”

She appealed to the Parliament to not let something like Moria happen again, highlighting the dire conditions of the camp before it burned down.

Read more: Lesbos and refugees: Europe descends into self-made chaos

What do EU lawmakers think?

“It’s absolutely intolerable,” EU lawmaker Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar told DW. “It’s unacceptable that there are almost 13,000 people completely homeless, with no sanitation facilities, with no roof, with no access to medicines.”

Elena Kountoura, a Greek MEP, called for other EU countries to take a bigger role in supporting refugees saying, “asylum seekers are not something that should just be of concern to Italy and Greece, this is a responsibility that needs to be taken on by the European Union.”

“The solution is not another Moria, we need a genuine solidarity-based European solution,” she added. That solidarity was not an “adhoc option,” Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar told DW, when it comes to “transferring 400 unaccompanied minors from the hell in Lesbos in Moria to the mainland.”

Tom Vandendriessche, Belgian Member of the European Parliament for the Flemish right-wing nationalist party Vlaams Belang, called for the EU to rethink its asylum policy. 

“I do think Europe can do a lot more and we need to help the Greek government by giving them extra funds to build a new camp, then these immigrants, these refugees, need to be brought to a new camp. But most of all, we must determine another policy. We cannot host everybody in the world who is looking for a better future,” Vandendriessche told DW.

“We need to agree inside Europe on a common policy. I believe that this common policy needs to agree on that the asylum system, as we have it right now, is just not applicable anymore,” added Vandendriessche.

What is the German response?

The German government announced on Tuesday that it was planning to take in 408 families, consisting of 1,553 individuals, from the destroyed camp.

According to a poll published by public broadcaster ZDF, 43% of Germans believe that the country should take in a large share of the refugees, while a further 46% thought that they should only be taken in on condition that other European countries do the same. Around 1 in ten were completely against taking in any of the displaced people.

At the same time, 62% of those surveyed agreed that taking in these refugees would lead to increasing numbers of migrants making their way to Europe.

dpa contributed to this report