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Fears growing in 'unbearable' and overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece as winter approaches

Unbearable, Hell, bad, dangerous - just a few of the words people use to describe the Moria refugee camp to us on the rare access we were given inside.

We visited the camp on the Greek island of Lesbos at what felt like a potential breaking point.

The thousands of refugees living there are traumatised, trapped and the hope they had when they arrived has been replaced with feelings of desolation.

The staff we spoke to in the overcapacity facility admitted to being overwhelmed and at a loss, but desperate for a solution.

Moria is set among olive groves on the Greek island of Lesbos. Credit: ITV News

What was originally set up as a reception centre for the refugees coming across the Aegean Sea from Turkey has expanded into a camp hosting, when we visited, around 8,000 people.

In the past, Moria has housed up to 10,000 people, when it was originally designed to hold no more than 3,000.

We were told by the deputy commander of the facility that there are plans to move 5,000 people to the mainland at the end of November, but the problem is, more keep coming, and the majority of the new arrivals are women and children.

He spoke candidly about the bureaucratic mess the migrants will face when they get to Moria.

There are plans to move 5,000 migrants from the camp to the Greek mainland in November. Credit: ITV News

Each refugee has between 10 and 20 papers they must complete, and these papers will be the lifeline they must hold on to in the hope of getting off the island as soon as possible.

The good news is that women and children will be put into the “vulnerable persons” category so the are given priority for relocation.

The bad news (even more bad news) is that 92% of the camp is currently considered “vulnerable”.

Some 92% of the camp's inhabitants are considered 'vulnerable'. Credit: ITV News

Every refugee we spoke to had come to Greece in search of a new life in Europe.

They spoke of Europe as if it was a promised land, but Moria falls far short of any promise.

We were told of three-hour queues for food, only for people to reach the end and be told supplies have run out or have run short.

Residents in the camp told of waiting three hours for food, only to find out that it had run out. Credit: ITV News

A lack of medicines also appeared to be a problem.

Several of the families we met showed us a single syringe of ibuprofen they had been given for their children, often for more than one to share.

The ibuprofen was being given to treat colds, scabies, and pretty much whichever ailment they presented with.

It is also little wonder that with that many people from 58 different nations, and of many religions, that fighting in the camp has become a growing concern.

We met a teacher from Afghanistan who told us about a fight the previous week which had left him and his family terrified.

A lack of medicine is reported to be an issue in the camp. Credit: ITV News

The teacher said all he and his family could do was lie in their tent and pray that those involved stayed away from them.

These are families who have escaped war, but still live in fear.

With more than 4,000 people now living in an unofficial, and illegal, overflow camp next to the main Moria facility, the charity Medicine Sans Frontier (Doctors Without Borders) is calling for an immediate evacuation of the site.

One aid worker we spoke to appeared to be almost in tears as he spoke of the children attending their support group in the camp.

A nine-year-old boy attempted suicide in the camp. Credit: ITV News

Recently there have been a number of attempted suicides.

There was one the week before we visited: a nine-year-old boy.

It is distressing to think of someone so young being driven to attempt suicide, and we were told self harm is also very prevalent among the children.

With winter approaching, it is feared the cold will deepen the humanitarian crisis here even further, making an already dire situation even worse.

With winter approaching, there are fears the situation in the camp could become worse. Credit: ITV News

Migration in numbers

According to the International Organization for Migration, between January and October of 2018:

  • Some 84,345 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea
  • Of these 84,345, 23,500 arrived in Greece
  • A total of 1,777 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean
  • Deaths this year are well below fatalities recorded at this time in 2017 at 2,749, or 2016 at 3,682
  • The number of migrants and refugees entering Europe in 2018 was significantly lower than in the same period in previous years, with 139,677 arriving in 2017 and 312,153 at the same point in 2016