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Fire Destroys Most of Europe’s Largest Refugee Camp on Greek Island of Lesvos

A major overnight fire swept through Greece’s largest refugee camp, that had been placed under COVID-19 lockdown, leaving more than 12,000 migrants in emergency need of shelter on the island of Lesvos.

The fires broke out shortly after midnight in several places in the camp. By today morning, most of the containers and tents as well as other facilities had been burned to the ground.

Video: BBC News

Greece’s Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, convened an emergency ministerial meeting Wednesday morning to examine the situation in Moria and decide on measures to be taken.

European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said she had “already agreed to finance the immediate transfer and accommodation on the mainland of the remaining 400 unaccompanied children and teenagers” who had been living in the camp.

“The safety and shelter of all people in Moria is the priority,” Johansson tweeted.


The Moria Camp from 2015 to date:

 

The Moria Refugee Camp lies north-east of Mytilene, the capital of the Greek island of Lesvos.

Since 2015, Moria has filled up with an influx of migrants seeking to reach northern Europe. That year, more than 850,000 mainly Syrian and Afghan refugees and migrants made their way by boat from Turkey to nearby Greek islands like Lesvos, hoping to travel further north. A further 300,000 have arrived in the years since.

In 2015, they passed quickly through Moria camp when Europe largely tolerated the movement of migrants. But in 2016, Europe changed tack, blocking the onward movement of migrants to countries like Germany and leaving thousands stranded in squalid Greek camps like Moria, which soon became overcrowded.

Since then, Moria has been considered an emblem of Europe’s hardening approach to migrants in the aftermath of the 2015 crisis. Built for only 3,000 residents, the camp population at times swelled to more than 20,000.

“This fire was expected,” said Eva Cossé, who leads research in Greece for Human Rights Watch, an independent New York-based rights organization. “It’s not surprising. It’s a testament to the European Union’s negligence and Greece’s negligence.”

Human Rights Watch has been calling for the camp to be closed or its number of residents to be significantly reduced for years.

“E.U. member states need to have a serious discussion about reducing numbers on the island, and alleviate the pressure on Greece, because the country cannot deal with this alone,” Ms. Cossé said.

 

Sources: BBC News/ The New York Times / Politico

 

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