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2018 review: struggles continue for migrants and locals in Lesbos

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2018 review: struggles continue for migrants and locals in Lesbos
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Moria, Lesbos. For yet another year, for yet another winter, thousands of refugees face desperately poor living conditions.

Some, the lucky ones, have found a place in the refugee camp that can accommodate up to 3,500 migrants. But those living in the fields, outside the centre's fence, remain exposed to intense cold and rain. That is why they are struggling to protect their families.

"Do you see what we are trying to do?" asks Muhammad Jaffary, a 26-year-old Afghan. "We are trying to build a small wooden house. They have given us a small tent, but we do not all fit inside. We are a seven-member family. Tell me, please, who can live in a field full of puddles and rocks? It’s winter and I do not have proper clothes. I only have this shirt."

Last September, the number of refugees reached 9,000. The situation was unbearable. People had to wait in line for food, for three hours, for every meal.

Now, many families try to cook and make bread outside the refugee camp.

"I am 36 years old and I have eight children," explains Shahla Nori. "This jacket is the only one I have to get through winter. Lately it has been raining a lot. Water enters our tent and it gets really cold. Moria is not a place for families. We do not want to stay here, we have to leave; we want to reach Athens."

At the end of the year fewer than 5,000 migrants live in Moria. However, many feel trapped on the island.

According to the Ministry for Migration Policy, at the end of 2018, around 70,000 migrants were living in Greece. Around 11,900 of those live in the Aegean islands, while 3,500 are unaccompanied minors.

Amnesty International argues that the Greek government and the European Union have major responsibilities for the current deadlock.

Gabriel Sakellaridis, head of Amnesty International's Greek Section, told us:

"Through the agreement, through the joint statement signed between the EU and Turkey, the European Union is actually trying to redeem its responsibilities with money. I mean that it funds third countries, such as Turkey or Libya in the south, in order to keep refugees and migrants far away from its front yard."

Volunteers try to entertain children, but the situation in Moria won’t really improve unless a significant number of refugees is transferred to the mainland.