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In Lesbos, an unacceptable situation alarms Andriukaitis. Where is Europe?

V. Andriukaitis on the island of Lesbos (Greece) on November 19 (credit: CE)
V. Andriukaitis on the island of Lesbos (Greece) on November 19 (credit: CE)

(B2) This is an unusual letter obtained by our Belgian colleague, Jurek Kuczkiewicz, who covers the European Union for the daily Le Soir. That of the European Commissioner for Health, Vytenis Andriukaitis, addressed to his leader, Jean-Claude Juncker President of the European Commission. This Lithuanian, a doctor by trade, is worried. He was in Lesbos on November 19. And his message sounds like a warning cry.

A single doctor, alone, in a muddy hut

« I was on the coast, a small boat arrived, inside were small children, women, babies, some sick, some injured, others just exhausted, cold and dehydrated. There was no place to examine or treat them, no equipment, no medical staff except for an overwhelmed NGO volunteer doctor in a muddy shack. No ambulance, no emergency care, no blankets. »

Three children died of hypothermia

And to continue: “I was told that three small children who arrived on the same beach had died of hypothermia the previous days. Indeed, I know as a doctor that it only takes a few minutes for a child to die of hypothermia. In a reception center some distance from the beach I saw a single doctor treating several patients – including a baby a few days old – in a small tent, without electricity, equipment or conditions. I saw many displaced families (...), children as young as two or three years old walking in the cold, frozen, hungry, sick. In the evening, when I was shivering from the cold, I was horrified to see people getting ready to sleep outside. »

The frustration of volunteers

“I heard the frustration of volunteers, NGOs, locals, unable to save children's lives. » And to add as an apostrophe: Speaker, I was not in Africa last week, nor in some distant developing country. I have witnessed this here in the European Union, on the island of Lesvos in Greece, on the beach of Skala Sykamias, where the boats arrive, in the hotspot of Moria. » 

Where is Europe, when will it come?

“This is unacceptable. There was no sign of the European Union, and people were asking me: when will the EU come, when will you help us? » The old doctor can't take it anymore.  « It is unacceptable for people to die of pneumonia just because there are not enough tents, blankets or heaters " in Europe.

Thinking about deciding urgently

For Vytenis Andriukaitis, we must think of acting differently. " We discuss this subject at every meeting of the College, but we must consider urgent solutions, extraordinary measures for extraordinary times. (...) We may need to consider waiving some of the rules governing our funds and programs, to expedite our response in light of this unfolding tragedy. »

(Nicolas-Gros Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).