Moria migrants: Fire destroys Greece’s camp on Lesbos

Fire has destroyed Greece’s largest migrant camp, the overcrowded Moria facility on the island of Lesbos.

About 25 firefighters with 10 engines battled the flames as migrants were evacuated. Some suffered injuries from smoke exposure.

Reports say migrants protesting against coronavirus rules may have started the fire, though this is unconfirmed.

Police blocked migrants heading to the port town of Mytilene, leaving them stuck on the road.

Moria is home to nearly 13,000 people, more than four times the number it can officially hold.

Lesbos deputy governor Aris Hatzikomninos reportedly told local radio the camp had been “completely destroyed”.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is holding an emergency meeting on the fire.

What happened at Moria?

One local resident told reporters almost the whole camp had been on fire.

“Now with the first light I can see that there is a few tents that make it, they are okay, but the rest of the camp, as I can see from this distance, is burnt out,” Thanasis Voulgarakis said.

The camp was placed under quarantine last week after a migrant tested positive for the coronavirus. There are now 35 confirmed cases.

Greek news agency ANA said the fires had broken out after some of the 35 had refused to move into isolation with their families but this is unconfirmed.

Marco Sandrone, Lesbos project coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), told BBC World Service it was difficult to say what caused the blaze, with several different fires and protests erupting in the camp.

“It’s a time bomb that finally exploded,” he said, adding that people had been kept in “inhumane conditions” at the site for years.

A government spokesman told state television channel ERT reports of arson were under investigation and a state of emergency would be declared across the island.

Reports suggest many migrants slept in fields after the fire.

“It is a very difficult situation because some of those who are outside will include people who are positive [for coronavirus],” the town’s mayor reportedly told local radio.

The refugee support group Stand by Me Lesvos said it had heard reports of some locals attacking and preventing migrants from passing through a nearby village.

“The disaster at Moria is total,” Greek migration ministry secretary Manos Logothetis told ANA news agency, and announced he was heading to the site.

What is the camp?

The Moria Refugee Camp lies north-east of Mytilene, the capital of Lesbos.

It was built for just 2,000 people but has since been overwhelmed by huge numbers of refugees. An overflow site – the Kara Tepe Refugee Camp – has since been built but there is still not enough space to accommodate all arrivals.

According to InfoMigrants, about 70% of people in the camp are from Afghanistan but migrants from more than 70 different countries live there.

Human rights groups have repeatedly attacked the poor conditions at the site.

In April, Human Rights Watch said the Greek authorities had not done enough to tackle “acute overcrowding” at the site, warning it was not prepared for an outbreak of coronavirus.

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