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Babies in Lesbos camp suffer rat bites: German minister

December 19, 2020

Migrants on Lesbos are facing "awful" winter conditions in the "middle of Europe," said German Development Minister Gerd Müller. He said medics working on the Greek island have been treating babies with rat bites.

A girl holds a balloon at Kara Tepe camp
The new tent settlement was erected on former troop training groundsImage: Manolis Lagoutaris/Getty Images/AFP

German Development Aid Minister Gerd Müller has accused Europe of ignoring migrants, especially children, who are facing weeks of winter weather on Greece's island of Lesbos, at the recently improvised Kara Tepe tent camp. 

"These are awful conditions — in the middle of Europe," said Müller, a veteran member of the Christian Social Union, the sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats.  

The German minister blasted the new tent settlement, which was erected on former troop training grounds after September's blaze gutted the oft-criticized Moria camp. The Kara Tepe facility is "apparently no better," according to Müller.

"On the contrary: Doctors Without Borders has had to start a tetanus vaccination campaign because babies in damp tents are being bitten by rats," he said. 

The hardest winter weeks were still ahead for the 7,300 migrants inside tents, Müller told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper in Bavaria.

Müller has advocated for vocational training in migrants' home countries and delivery chain rules to deter EU retailers from upholding near-slave labor.  

'No life should start like this' 

Recalling his conversations with a pregnant rape victim from Africa at Moria in 2018, as well as his visits to northern Iraq and South Sudan, Müller said nowhere had he experienced "worse conditions than on Lesbos." 

"No life should start like this," he said. He added that while the EU needed to better protect its external borders, it also needed to boost investment in migrants' countries of origin and help them tackle conflict and poverty. 

"We will not solve the refugee problems in the camps or here in Germany, but only on the ground in the developing countries," said Müller.    

Greece became a main gateway to Europe in 2015 and 2016 until a deal to stem the flow of migrants was reached between the EU and Turkey. 

ipj/dj (epd, KNA, AFP, dpa)