Two fires destroy 12,500 person Greek migrant camp under Covid lockdown

10 September 2020, 14:13

A fire has ravaged the camp
A fire has ravaged the camp. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

Two devastating fires have destroyed almost all of Greece’s notoriously overcrowded Moria migrant camp, on the island of Lesbos, the country’s migration ministry said.

The original fire began on Tuesday at the camp, which houses 12,500 migrants, before a second set of fires on Wednesday evening destroyed much of the remaining unburnt tents.

Greek authorities have blamed residents of the camp for starting the fires, claiming they were started by people angered by quarantine measures imposed to contain a coronavirus outbreak, after 35 tested positive.

However, some migrants claim the fires broke out after scuffles between residents and Greek forces at the camp, while others blamed it on “far-right Greeks”.

Greek officials initially said those with confirmed infections were being kept in isolation at a separate site that was not affected by Tuesday’s fire. It is unclear if this was affected by the second blaze.

Residents fleeing the fires clashed with riot police and firefighters who set up cordons along a road near the camp to restrict the movements of the migrants.

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12,500 people have been displaced
12,500 people have been displaced. Picture: PA

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Many have been sleeping in the open by the side of the road while the Greek authorities have worked to fly in tents and provide a ferry and two navy ships as temporary emergency housing.

400 unaccompanied children and teenagers were also flown to the mainland on Wednesday, to be housed in other Greek migration facilities.

On Thursday "all necessary actions will be taken to house initially the vulnerable and families in specially designated areas", the migration ministry said.

Aid agencies have long warned of dire conditions at Moria, which had become a sprawling tent city despite only being built to house around 2,750 people.