Children in their rubber slippers jumping through dirt and playing catch. Families living in tiny tents and huts. These pictures come to mind immediately when I think of my visit to the Olive Grove and Moria refugee camps on Lesbos in February.

At the heart of Europe, refugees are living in precarious and inhumane conditions. Even before Corona, the camps were hopelessly overcrowded, the sanitary conditions unbearable and violent and sexual assaults were daily occurrences. Ten months down the line, the situation in Moria has worsened further due to Covid-19 and the fires – the rest of Europe is watching.

Activists and affected people suspect that the fires were started by a right-wing mob. Others think that the refugees themselves are responsible. There is no evidence for this. These discussions distract from the heart of the matter, because refugees are not a commodity, they are humans who might have voluntarily left their homeland for personal reasons or have been forced to leave. This humanitarian disaster also directly affects the inhabitants of Lesbos.

I remember the incredibly moving conversations with local politicians who were so desperate for support. They felt left alone: Neither the Greek government nor the EU offered any help. Not much has happened since then. Engaging with the EU Commission is proving cumbersome. Only in September 2020 did it put forward reform proposals for a new asylum and migration pact. However, regulating deportation procedures is not an expression of human solidarity, but rather a lack of empathy and a poor reflection of humanity.

Solidarity as a basic principle

The Greek government must not be left alone when it comes to housing refugees. Likewise, the EU should fulfil its responsibility in sea rescue in the Mediterranean Sea. European migration policy needs orderly, fair and speedy asylum procedures. EU governments and we ourselves respect the human rights of refugees, inhabitants and ourselves by making human solidarity the basic principle of refugee and migration policy.

People live under unimaginable conditions.

The situation in the Aegean Sea requires urgent action.

Together with Konstantin Kuhle MP at voluntary asylum lawyers who ensure the right to a fair trial.

Safe escape routes and swift asylum procedures are needed.

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