Thousands of Refugees in Greece Displaced by Fire
Fire destroyed much of Greece’s largest refugee camp early Wednesday, displacing thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers amid a camp-wide outbreak of COVID-19. The Moria Reception and Identification Center on the island of Lesbos was 80% destroyed in the blaze, Refugees and migrants gather water next to destroyed shelters following a fire at the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, Sept. 9, 2020.”There was not just one, but many fires in the camp. Migrants threw stones at firefighters trying to put out the fires. The cause is under investigation,” Constantine Theophilopoulos, fire brigade chief for the northern Aegean, told ERT TV. The fire began in several locations after authorities tried to isolate some migrants who tested positive for COVID-19, Refugees and migrants sleep next to a road following a fire at the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, Sept. 9, 2020.Some asylum-seekers were trying to reach Mytilini, a nearby town. Mytilini Mayor Stratis Kytelis said some migrants would need to be moved to ships to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but government spokesman Stelios Petsas said camp residents would not be allowed to leave Lesbos due to the pandemic, according to Reuters. European Union Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson announced the EU would fund the immediate transfer of the 400 unaccompanied children, as well as provide accommodations. 2/2 …I have already agreed to finance the immediate transfer and accommodation on the mainland of the remaining 400 unaccompanied children and teenagers. The safety and shelter of all people in Moria is the priority.— Ylva Johansson (@YlvaJohansson) September 9, 2020For refugee advocates, Moria has become a symbol of Europe’s increasingly strict approach to migrants. In 2016, the EU began blocking the flow of travel to Western European countries like Germany. Overcrowding, alongside overall living conditions, worsened at refugee camps in European border countries like Greece. “This fire was expected,” Eva Cossé, who researches Greece for nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch, told The New York Times. “It’s not surprising. It’s a testament to the European Union’s negligence and Greece’s negligence.”Greece’s deputy migration minister, George Koumoutsakos, said about 3,000 migrants and refugees would be temporarily housed in tents as the government struggles to find them alternative shelter, Reuters reported.