The Captain Elias camp on the island of Kos, Greece, a makeshift building where authorities have been directing refugees to stay while awaiting registration papers, was closed on September 10.
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), used the building for medical consultations, and is seriously concerned there is now no provision of accommodation of any sort for new arrivals.
Since March, an MSF team has worked inside the Captain Elias structure and around Kos, conducting more than 4,450 medical consultations, treating patients mainly for chronic diseases that need medical follow-up, upper respiratory tract infections, skin infections, muscle pain and gastro-intestinal diseases.
“It is unacceptable that this closure was not accompanied by any decision from the authorities to provide other facilities for refugees arriving in Kos,” said Elisa Galli, MSF field coordinator in Kos.
“Captain Elias was far from ideal, but now people have absolutely nowhere to go. There is no clarity on what will happen next, and authorities are not assuming their responsibilities about the well-being of these vulnerable people.
“As we have said repeatedly, the authorities need to ensure that adequate reception facilities are provided.”
The building housed several hundred people at a time.
While living conditions were sub-standard it was the only place where new arrivals could seek free shelter and have access to water, toilets and showers.
Three thousand people are currently scattered around Kos town waiting for permission to leave the island, which usually takes an average of eight days.
“Without any shelter the refugees are exposed to weather conditions that soon will get worse, and they have little or no access to water and sanitation.” said Galli.
“Furthermore they are exposed to potential attacks by unidentified groups that have targeted migrants in the city of Kos in the last few weeks.
“It is simply not safe to be a refugee and stay in the streets.”
To improve conditions in the Captain Elias site and in the absence of any management from the authorities, MSF has installed water points and latrines and has been cleaning the building every day.
MSF has also distributed essential relief items such as blankets, hygiene kits and energy bars.
Meanwhile, Germany re-imposed border controls on Sunday after Europe’s most powerful nation acknowledged it could scarcely cope with thousands of asylum seekers arriving every day.
A day before deeply divided European Union ministers tackle the migrant crisis, the U.N. refugee agency also called on every member state to take in a share of asylum-seekers under a Brussels plan which some countries are fiercely resisting.
Berlin announced that the temporary measure would be taken first on the southern frontier with Austria, where migrant arrivals have soared since Chancellor Angela Merkel effectively opened German borders to refugees a week ago.
“The aim of these measures is to limit the current inflows to Germany and to return to orderly procedures when people enter the country,” said German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere.
Open borders among the European countries which signed the Schengen Treaty are a crucial part of the E.U. project, but controls can be re-introduced, provided they are only temporary.
“The free movement of people under Schengen is a unique symbol of European integration,” the E.U.’s executive Commission said in a statement. “However, the other side of the coin is a better joint management of our external borders and more solidarity in coping with the refugee crisis.”
At an emergency meeting on Monday, interior ministers from the E.U.’s 28 member states will discuss Commission proposals to redistribute about 160,000 asylum seekers across the bloc.
“We need swift progress on the Commission’s proposals now,” the Commission said in a statement issued as tens of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in Syria and other parts of the Middle East, Asia and Africa made their way north.
EU envoys meeting on Sunday evening in Brussels failed to break the deadlock, with some eastern states still refusing to accept binding quotas of refugees. They argue the plan will draw more people to Europe and disrupt their homogeneous societies.
More Lives Lost
Amid the political bickering among European governments, the crisis claimed yet more lives. On Sunday 34 refugees, almost half of them babies and children, drowned off a Greek island when their boat sank, the coastguard said.
Four babies, six boys and five girls died when the wooden vessel carrying them overturned on Sunday morning, about three miles (5 km) east of the small island of Farmakonisi, close to Turkey’s coast, the service added.
Tens of thousands of mainly Syrian refugees have braved rough seas this year to make the short but precarious journey from Turkey to Greece’s eastern islands, mainly in flimsy and overcrowded inflatable dinghies.