The September 8th and 9th fires in Moria Camp grabbed international attention as photos surfaced of the burning camp and of thousands sleeping on the streets. In the last years, Moria has become notorious for inhumane living conditions, systemic neglect and violence on the part of the state and asylum system: a symbol and physical manifestation of Europe’s policies of deterrence and border externalization. In the aftermath of the fire, very immediate, punitive police violence and repression overlapped with longstanding structural forms of violence, creating a situation where the people impacted by the fire were stripped of all options and forced to go to a new temporary camp in the Kara Tepe area, despite clear demands for evacuation from the island and the freedom of movement.
This timeline came together as an organic collaboration between individuals and collectives (BVMN, Disinfaux, Dunya Collective and Nica Collective) present on the ground throughout the events described. In the very short period of time between when the first case of COVID-19 was found in Moria Camp on September 2nd—an event that is inextricably tied to the fires—to announcements at the end of the month by top government officials on the building of detention facilities to house people-on-the-move on Lesvos and the closing of all other housing structures, the landscape and discourses on issues of migrant mobility and rights changed drastically.
Moria, the seemingly inescapable hell in which thousands found themselves trapped, ceased to exist in 2 days. The scale of this change can not be underestimated. Many of those who had been forced to live there lost everything. For years now, we have watched the situation in the camp deteriorate, and thought again and again, it ‘could not get worse than this’. For those who lived it, there was the prevailing feeling that living anywhere else would be by nature better. And yet, in the days after the fire, people found themselves sleeping on the streets trapped between police blockades with nothing. Moria was not a home, but people had made it one in the ways they could through their own resilience and the building up of alternative structures of support. Now, those forced into the new temporary camp say that it is ‘worse than Moria’ and the future is grim.
Whereas previously, there had been strong opposition to building closed camps on Lesvos by nearly every faction of society, in the last days there has been widespread support, and momentum on the part of the authorities. Demands for freedom on the part of people-on-the-move, also heavily present in the days after the fire, were brutally repressed. Police and state violence intensified unchecked with hundreds of officers arriving on the island. NGOs and other humanitarian structures either were co-opted by the state and complicit in its approaches towards migrants, or faced increasing difficulty in reaching those they previously supported.
Going forward, we hope this timeline can serve as a guide to those looking to better understand the events surrounding the Moria fire, and its larger impact. The information presented comes from those of us that were present at the time, active in various self-organized structures and in contact with those most impacted by the fire. The situation described is by no means over, as steps are taken towards the construction of closed camps to incarcerate people-on-the-move arriving on Lesvos.
In collaboration with: