The Lesbos camp was destroyed by a huge fire

Several fires broke out overnight on Wednesday in the overcrowded Moria migration camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. The European Union has announced that 400 children and young people will be transferred immediately to mainland Greece.

“Scattered fires” destroy the meadow “around the camp but also inside” Moria-migrating camp, on the Greek island of Lesbos. Firefighters mobilized to put out the flames that broke out on Wednesday, September 9, and describe images of wasteland. The camp has “burned to 99% and the fire continues”, warned the president of the Lesbos Firefighters’ Association, questioned Wednesday morning, Yorgos Ntinos.

Currently, 25 firefighters and 10 vehicles are being mobilized to evacuate the camp, which currently houses nearly 12,700 asylum seekers, four times its capacity. No casualties should be regretted, assure the soldiers of the fire at the moment. “Only a few minor injuries with breathing problems due to the smoke,” they specify.

Nearly 500 asylum seekers fled the camp on foot to the port of Mytilene, but were blocked by law enforcement vehicles. Others took refuge in the hills surrounding the camp.

“The island of Lesbos has been declared a state of emergency,” Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas told state broadcaster ERT.

Fire in Lesbos refugee camp

“The fire is spreading fast”

According to the local news site LesvosPost, more than 3,000 tents, thousands of containers, administration offices and a clinic within the camp were burned. Stand by Me Lesvos, an association that brings together locals and refugees, is worried on Twitter: “Everything is burning, people are fleeing”. “Some testimonies report that locals are blocking the passage [des réfugiés]in the neighboring village “, also adds the association.

“For several hours, large fires have surrounded the reception center. […]and with the force of the wind [7-8 sur l’échelle de Beaufort], the fire is spreading fast “, comments on its Facebook page the association for the residents of Moria and other surrounding villages.

“The area pays the price for indifference and abandonment,” continues the residents’ association, which urges the authorities to act quickly to find a solution for asylum seekers who will be homeless after the fire.


Humanitarian emergency

For its part, the European Commission has announced that it will take over the immediate transfer of 400 children and young people to mainland Greece. “Making everyone in Moria safe is a priority,” tweeted Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, adding that she was in contact with the Greek authorities.

“I have already given my consent to finance the immediate transfer and accommodation to the mainland of the 400 unaccompanied children and young people who still remain,” added Ylva Johansson.

The situation in the Moria camp illustrates the urgency of reforming migration policy in the EU, which has stumbled across European divisions for years. At the end of the month, the European Commission will present its repeated rejected proposal for a “new pact on migration and asylum”.

The European chief has also been coordinating a program for several months to relocate to ten EU countries some 2,000 unaccompanied children who have come to Greek refugee camps.

35 cases of Covid-19

According to the Greek news agency ANA, the fires would have started after the uprising of some asylum seekers who were to be placed in isolation, after testing positive for coronavirus or near a person who had tested positive.

The firefighters also report in their statement that they “have been prevented from entering the camp to intervene” by certain groups of refugees on arrival at the camp and that they have called on the police to be able to continue the rescue operation. .

Last week, authorities discovered a first case of coronavirus in the Moria camp and quarantined the camp for two weeks. After performing 2000 screening tests, 35 people were detected positive for Covid-19 in Moria.

“Only one person has presented symptoms, the thirty-four others are asymptomatic,” the statement from the Greek Ministry of Migration assured. “The thirty-five people who were positive for the coronavirus were transported to a room for their isolation,” the ministry also specified.

With the fire “everyone has spread and the positive cases have been mixed with others now”, a police source in Lesbos worries on Wednesday morning.

Strict traffic measures have been introduced in migratory camps since mid-March.

The government has never lifted these restrictions despite criticism from non-governmental human rights organizations that considered the measures “discriminatory”, when the decision was made to finance the country in early May.

Lack of hygiene and congestion

These NGOs condemn the inclusion of asylum seekers in these structures, which are not adapted to introduce the necessary barrier measures.

The Moria camp has been repeatedly criticized in recent years for its lack of hygiene and its overcrowding of NGOs, which regularly call on the Greek authorities to transfer the most vulnerable asylum seekers to the mainland.

Riots and fights have become almost daily in the Moria camp. From January to the end of August, five people were stabbed in more than fifteen attacks. In March 2020, a girl was killed in a burned container. In September 2019, two people also died in a fire.

With AFP