As another deadly winter sets in, Moria prison camp on Lesvos is thousands over capacity and growing fuller every day. In these conditions, LGBTQI+ refugees are particularly at risk of exposure, violence and death.
Around 3000 of the over 5500 people in the 2000-capacity former military prison at Moria are only sheltered by woefully inadequate summer tents and have to sleep on the floor on thin sleeping mats or blankets. Yet people are still arriving in their hundreds every week.
Being forced to live in such close quarters exposes LGBTQI+ refugees to sexual, physical and psychological violence. There is an absolute absence of specific support for LGBTQI+ refugees, so needs are institutionally disregarded. Some members of Lesvos LGBTQI+ Refugee Solidarity have been beaten and even hospitalised in homophobic and transphobic attacks. Some fear rape whenever they are in the camp. All have had to repress their identity, living cheek by jowl among communities which replicate the persecution they fled in the first place.
LGBTQI+ refugees in Moria have been driven from their assigned containers and tents by insults and threats of homophobic and transphobic violence. Some spent the night sleeping in front of the camp offices, waiting for them to reopen so they can beg for relocation. This is a harsh and terrifying experience even in summer. In winter, it could kill.
The police routinely either laugh off homophobic and transphobic abuse or engage in it themselves. They offer no protection.
Even in the rare event LGBTQI+ refugees are transferred to alternative accommodation outside of Moria, being trapped on the small island of Lesvos presents a fundamental barrier to safety, dignity and the right to live freely in accordance with identity. Members of Lesvos LGBTQI+ Refugee Solidarity have experienced homophobic, transphobic, racist street violence from ordinary citizens on Lesvos, and feel unsafe dressing in accordance with who they are, or displaying affection in public.
Hundreds of activist groups are calling on the Greek government to see sense and open the borders, but instead the authorities are increasing ”fast-track” deportations, imprisoning new arrivals from “undesirable” nations for the duration of a curtailed asylum process before dumping them back in Turkey in a matter of weeks.
Refugees from these countries – Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon – are accused of being mere “economic migrants”. But these are the same countries where LGBTIQ+ people are criminalized and have to fear violent attack, imprisonment or murder because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The fast-track procedure prevents people from accessing proper legal help, and may condemn LGBTQI+ individuals to deportation back into the violence they fled, or to face state-sponsored homophobia and violence in Turkey.
All refugees trapped on the Greek islands will suffer this winter. More will die. And LGBTQI+ individuals are among those most exposed to the arbitrary cruelty of the border regime.
“The situation in Moria for LGBT people is unbearable,” a member of the solidarity group has written. “Take my case as an example: due to the way I dress, I am already subjected to mockery and homophobic abuse. People goes as far calling me a mistake of nature, saying that I am shameful for my country.”
“And that’s just the start of it, there is so much to say about what happens to me there that I am already beginning to weep as I write. The same verbal abuse that I suffered in my country- it hasn’t changed here in Moria. I even asked social services to help me get out of there, but I didn’t get any response. For gay people like us, Moria is hell.”
We demand Europe stops painting itself as a liberal beacon of LGBTQI+ rights when it is directly responsible for continued violence against LGBTQI+ refugees. The particular risks that LGBTIQ+ refugees face on Lesvos need to be taken seriously and measures need to be taken to prevent further violence.
We demand the human rights of the members of our collective – Lesvos LGBTQI+ Refugee Solidarity – are not trampled over any longer.
We demand that LGBTIQ+ refugees are transferred to the mainland where they have access to LGBTIQ+ support structures.
We demand that they are sheltered in adequate shelters outside of Moria camp until their transfer.
We demand the borders to be opened, and free movement for all refugees.
✊🌈 Queer solidarity smashes borders 🌈