Mória Reception and Identification Centre, better known as Mória Refugee Camp, or just “Mória”, was the largest refugee camp in Europe until it was burned down in September 2020. It was located outside the village of near Mytilene on the island of Lesbos. Enclosed with barbed wire and a chain-link fence, the military camp served as a European Union “hotspot”. It was described by Human Rights Watch as an open air prison.
In August 2018, it was dubbed by the field coordinator of Doctors Without Borders as “the worst refugee camp on earth”, as reported by the BBC. The camp was built to accommodate around 3,000 people, however there were around 20,000 people living in the camp in summer 2020, among whom 6,000 to 7000 were children under the age of 18.
Because of overcrowding, the camp expanded into a nearby olive grove, known as “Moria jungle”, where the living quarters were makeshift, typically made out of pallets and tarps. The migrants cut down an estimated 5,000 olive trees, some of them centuries old, to use as firewood. The residents of the nearby village of Moria have complained of increased criminality, including break-ins, vandalism, and looting of houses.
Visited in 2019, the camp was described as “the recreation of a concentration camp on European soil” by Jean Ziegler, vice-chairman of the committee of experts advising the UN Human Rights Council.
On 8 September 2020, a fire badly damaged the camp of more than 12,000 asylum seekers. On 10 September, three Greek ships were sent to help shelter the migrants. By then, the camp was almost completely destroyed.
Most of the refugees were left homeless on the street. During protests demanding their evacuation Greek police fired tear gas at them.