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Moria camp erupts in violence and flames again but Greek Authorities still want Christians to return!

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An image of the fire that erupted at Moria Camp on Tuesday

Hundreds of people were injured during violent clashes between Muslim refugees late Tuesday 19th December 2017, at the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos.

According to a number of twitter and facebook reports from some of the 5500 refugees and asylum seekers placed on the Island  clashes erupted between Arab, Afghan and Iraqi refugees.

Some of the rioters burned down tents and then prevented fire and other emergency services entering the camp.  To bring some calm into the situation riot police were called in from the mainland and they had to use teargas to quell the clashes.  Major media groups  in Greece described the riot as a “warzone situation”.

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Clashes between refugees are not rare at the camp, but the latest bout of violence has reportedly been much more intense and the perpetrators have a very similar description, they are Muslim and male. The situation at Moria refugee camp has been deteriorating on a daily basis with gangs forming on cultural lines and religious lines based on Islamic denominations.  

Most Christians escape the Island as soon as they can due to bullying, harassment and attempts to forcibly convert them to Islam. However when they escape they find that neither the Greek Authorities nor the UNHCR are willing to help them, unless they are willing to return to Moria camp which is a terrifying prospect as the Island holds the same type of Islamic zealots that the Christians have tried to flee.

Hundreds if not thousands of Christians find themselves stranded on the Greek mainland, unable to work or seek any legal assistance, as they find themselves in an endless position of limbo. One of the Pakistani Christian escapees from Moria camp, spoke with us about his fears, Haroon Maqbool has now been eking out an existence on handouts for 14 months.

When he came to Greece he travelled by boat from Turkey a trip that can be very hazardous, moreover he travelled in a large rubber dinghy, despite the fact that he cannot swim. For him it was a terrifying ordeal as he put his life in the trust of others.

When he arrived on Moria Camp he was bullied by other asylum seekers and asked to convert to Islam, he soon realised that Christians were a tiny minority on the camp. When he refused o accept Islam he soon found the bitterness towards him and his friends worsened.  He and his friends began to live on the fringes of the camp finding shelter where they could away from the tented areas.  Other Christians we have spoken with describe offence caused to Muslims on the camp because of their Christian prayers and services which they began to hold in secret to avoid retribution. The daily threats Christians received on the camp meant that their moral was at it's lowest ebb.

Whilst there they noted that freight ships offered a window of opportunity for them to escape and they took their chance one day travelling for over 10 hours under a tarpaulin, in sweltering heat. You can watch the escape on a video:

 

Greek authorities however have put in place a "geographical restriction" that is effectively blocking asylum seekers who escaped persecution at one of the refugee camps on the Greek islands from being able to apply for asylum with the Greek authorities on the mainland without having to return to the very camp they were persecuted in.  For the terrified Christians who have escaped Muslim persecution in their homeland and then again form Moria Camp this is an untenable idea.  Many of them end up homeless or assisted by a raft of charities that provide, homes, food, support and other care.

There are a few exception to the geographical restrictions which mean unassisted minors and those with a serious health condition can be assessed for asylum on the mainland, even after escaping form Lesvos or other Island camps.  However BPCA is calling for Greek authorities to widen these exceptions to the rules for vulnerable non-Muslims who unanimously describe persecution by Muslims. Mr Haroon has previously shared his account with Christian Post (click here).

Mr Wilson Chowdhry Chairman of the BPCA, wrote to the Greek Ambassador to the UK a Mr Dimitris Caramitsos for help in seeking a change to the policy in July 2017.   Thus far Mr Chowdhry has received no response despite a growing number of disenfranchised Christians being found homeless on the Greek mainland.

A volunteer for a large charity helping asylum seekers in Greece has called on the BPCA for help to house the large and growing number of Pakistani Christians who suffer  great poverty and exploitation due to their illegal status on the Greek mainland, through failure to return to the dreaded Moria camp for asylum seekers. Mr Chowdhry responded to earlier requests by travelling to Greece to assess the situation, he met with a range of Pakistani Christians and was quite surprised to find  established Pakistani Christians churches and communities who had resided in Greece for some time and had become respectable Greek citizens (click here).  Newer migrants were finding things much tougher however.

Haroon Maqbool has now been an unregistered asylum seeker for 14 months and is desperately seeking a review by the Greek authorities of their existing Geographical Restriction policy, he said:

"I have been homeless for much of my time in Greece, during my first winter here I slept out in the cold for a month until a local charity helped me find a temporary shelter. I am a qualified person and previously managed a hotel  and then became a driver for the UN World Food Programme in Pakistan. I have a lot to offer the nation of Greece if given an opportunity to work and to live like a normal human being. I am being discriminated against because I refuse to return to the overtly unsafe Moria camp.

"I was being beaten and abused on the camp, the majority Muslim people at these camps despise Christians they believe we contaminate their purity. They tried to convert my friends and I but when we refused they treated us like dogs. 

"How can Greek Authorities and the UN expect me to return? Living there is no different than living in Pakistan or any other Islamic nation, I simply end up being despised, rejected, abused and my freedom to practice my faith is removed from me. 

"If I have to make a choice of a brutal life on earth in exchange for a wonderful life in heaven than I will accept this.  I will not lose my eternal salvation for a little piece of peace on this temporary earth."

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association,

"The safety of all the migrants stranded on these Island is evidently at risk, how much more so for minorities?  The Island project itself is a failure with frequent rioting and looting a consequence of cramming large numbers of victims on an Island with limited resource and poor infrastructure.  

"Policing of the Island is so absent that brutal gangs are creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation - life for those on the Island has reached a nadir.

"The frequent burning of tents has led to asylum seekers losing the little resource they had and having to restart their abysmal lives from scratch, again and again, it's just an endless cycle of anguish and anxiety..

He added: 

"The growing number of asylum seekers found outside the official process operated in Greece due to failure to return to the Island, is a growing concern. Many of them are Christians who would suffer immensely on the Island as Muslim gangs constantly apply pressure on vulnerable minorities to convert to Islam.  The geographical restriction must permit being non-Muslim as a mitigating factor for asylum assessment on the mainland in the weight of growing evidence of the enhanced victimhood of Christians.

He further added:

"The EU- Turkey deal should not be used  as a pretext for the shredding up of the basic human right for safety and freedom that so many victims have suffered for so long.  An immediate review of existing Greek and EU policy is of paramount importance for the safety of thousands of disenfranchised people irrespective of their faith."

BPCA are seeking to create a regular ongoing fund for Pakistani Christians amounting to £250 a month so that we can provide a free home for new arrivals or homeless asylum seekers. An initial project that ran for 6 months has had to terminate due to a lack of regular donations resulting in several Pakistani Christians becoming homeless. If you would like to help us with this project and can give a regular amount per month please donate by using the options (here).


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