Two ships from the Greek navy leave for the island of Lesbos on Thursday to receive migrants from the Moria camp. The day before, Greece’s largest refugee camp was destroyed by two fires. No deaths are to be regretted, but thousands of people are left homeless.
“A state of emergency” is declared at Lesbos, after the two fires that destroyed the Moria camp. “At least 3,500 migrants are homeless (…) and we are taking emergency measures for these people: the most vulnerable, about 1,000, will be accommodated on a ferry […] at the port of Mytilene “, the capital of the Greek island, the Greek Minister of Migration, Notis Mitarachi, announced on Wednesday, September 9. A total of two Greek naval vessels were sent to the island on Thursday.
The camp, completely destroyed, housed about 12,700 asylum seekers, four times its capacity, including 4,000 children. The European Commission has already announced that it will take over the immediate transfer of 400 children and young people to mainland Greece.
Germany, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, has called on EU countries to welcome migrants from the camp. Several thousand people spontaneously demonstrated on Wednesday in several cities in this country to demand that the authorities take care of migrants.
Paris will take its part “in solidarity”
For Austria, “if we empty the Moria camp, it will be replenished immediately,” argued its Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg. However, Vienna will offer one million euros in aid, for example to buy “tents and blankets” in Greece, he added.
France said it was ready to “take part in solidarity”.
“No casualties, neither injured nor missing, have been reported,” said the Greek Minister of Migration, who praised the “rapid intervention” by firefighters and police.
During the night Tuesday to Wednesday, thousands of men, women and children panicked from the tents and containers, some refuge in the surrounding olive groves. On Wednesday afternoon, the majority of them were sitting on the side of the road from the camp to the port of Mytilene, forming long queues of three kilometers.
On Wednesday night, a new fire broke out in a part of the camp that had been relatively untouched and caused the same scenes of chaos. This “fire is more limited than the one on Tuesday night,” said a firefighter.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who expressed “his grief”, attributed the catastrophe to “violent reactions to health checks” carried out since last week following the discovery of 35 cases of Covid-19 in camps.
The first case of coronavirus was detected in Moria last week and the camp was immediately placed in isolation for two weeks.
NGOs are concerned about the situation. “Many people are scattered in places on the island” where NGOs cannot access, explains Giovanna Scaccabarozzi, a staff member at Médecins Sans Frontières in Lesbos, who says she feels “distress and despair”.
In recent years, the Moria camp has been criticized for its poor hygiene and congestion by NGOs, which regularly call on the Greek authorities to transfer the most vulnerable asylum seekers to the mainland.