Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos in flames

Large fires almost completely destroyed the hopelessly overcrowded refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. Thousands of residents are homeless, including those infected with the coronavirus. The police suspect arson.

The provisional tent camp Kara Tepe (photo taken on September 14th) is to partially replace the burned down Camp Moria. However, many migrants are still reluctant to go to the newly built camp.

Panagiotis Balaskas / Imago

The latest developments

  • The Greek security forces have arrested five suspected arsonists who are said to have set fire to the registry camp on Moria last week. This was announced by the Greek Minister for Civil Protection, Michalis Chrysochoidis, on Tuesday (September 15). «The arsonists have been arrested. They are young migrants. Another is still being sought, ”he said on the state radio (ERT). From police circles it was said that the five alleged arsonists were Afghans whose asylum applications had been rejected.
  • The German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer have agreed to take in an additional 1,500 refugees from Greece. As the news agency DPA learned from government circles on Tuesday (September 15), these are families with children. So far, Germany had agreed to take on around 150 migrants. It is still open whether the Social Democrats will agree to Merkel and Seehofer’s plan. The SPD chairman Saskia Esken called on ZDF on Sunday that Germany should take in several thousand refugees from Greece in addition to the offers of help that had already been made. More than 12,000 people were left homeless after the fire in the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos.
  • On Lesbos, many migrants are still reluctant to go to the Kara Tepe makeshift tent camp, that is geared for 3000 people. According to the Greek Ministry of Migration, more homeless migrants came to the newly built camp on Monday morning (14 September). But rumors are circulating that Kara Tepe could become a kind of prison. In addition, according to eyewitness reports, migrants predominantly from Afghanistan prevent their compatriots from moving into the new camp.
  • On Saturday morning (September 12th) the police again cracked down on refugees with tear gas. According to refugee workers, women and children were also hit. Hundreds of migrants had resumed their Friday protests after another night in the open, demanding to be evacuated from the island. According to aid organizations, dozens of people collapsed in the heat as the distribution of food and water is also slow. Volunteers and independent organizations are therefore prevented by the police from providing emergency aid to the refugees. The Greek government has transported around 400 unaccompanied minors to the mainland, but refuses to bring any other large groups of migrants from the island. Anger is also rising among the locals. Many feel abandoned because for years they have had to live with a situation that is unacceptable to all involved. Due to the extraordinary situation, schools in the Mytilene district will be closed at least until September 16. The authorities fear the spread of the corona virus, because there are several dozen infected people among the migrants who are now wandering around. So far, the authorities have not been able to locate them.
  • Switzerland wants to take in around 20 unaccompanied children and young people from the burned down refugee camp. The Federal Council announced on Friday (September 11th). Primarily, however, she wants to help on site: A machine from the federal air transport service is supposed to bring around a ton of material to Athens. On board are sleeping bags, sleeping mats, water canisters, kitchen utensils and other relief items that the Greek government had requested.
  • According to the Greek government, migrants started the big fire in Camp Moria themselves. It was a reaction to the quarantine imposed because of the corona virus, said government spokesman Stelios Petsas on Thursday (September 10th). These are people who “do not respect their host country,” said Petsas. “We’ll tell you straight and clear: you won’t leave the island because of the fire. They can forget that. ” The arsonists only managed to make thousands of people – including families – homeless.

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