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October 14, 2015
October 14, 2015

Greece: Transiting Lesvos

Author: Transcapes
Category: Borders
This article is also available in: eles
Greece: Transiting Lesvos

A day spent between Kara Tepe and Moria, the two camps of Lesvos, immerses the visitor into a part of the migrant journey that is all about waiting and queueing.

Kara Tepe is now an accommodation facility for newly arrived Syrians from across the coast and is managed by the municipality while services are coordinated by the UNHCR and its implementing partners. Until recently, this was the registration centre for Syrians but after the recent official visit of Greek PM Alexis Tsipras and Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, it was decided to move the registration of everyone in Moria. The official reason is that only there the police can run the digital fingerprinting which is required for the EURODAC database.

Moria had until recently been the registration facility for all non-Syrians and is located a few miles away. It is run by the Greek police and only recently NGOs deployed some of their activities there. Registration in Moria remains segregated: the queue for Syrians is near the entrance at the most visible part of the camp while the rest are hidden at the very end of the camp. The site is heavily fenced, dressed with barbed wire, a reminder that the facility had been used as a detention centre.

NGO staff speak of constant changes in procedures, seem frustrated and respond clumsily to the needs arising. Both sites are transient places, migrants do not tend to stay longer than they have to, which is usually a few days. The aim is to get registered and move on. Syrians will receive a six month permit, while the rest will have to make do with a 30 days permit. Then nearly everyone boards a ferry to Athens and make their way up north through the border with Macedonia. They are all encouraged to apply for asylum, but hardly anyone chooses to do so.

The roughly six hour boat journey from the Turkish coast to the city of Mytilene essentially matures into a two day long queuing: individual registration in Moria can take up to 20 minutes, and there is usually a few hundred waiting in line under the scorching sun; for many, this will last for a couple of days. Then there is queuing for food, blankets, water, phone charging, and so on while waiting for a ferry at the port of Mytilene, waiting on a ferry for the twelve hour journey to Piraeus port of Athens.


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Greece: Transiting Lesvos by Transcapes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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