Two fires destroy 12500 person Greek migrant camp under Covid lockdown

Two fires destroy 12500 person Greek migrant camp under Covid lockdown

Thousands of asylum seekers were left homeless on Wednesday after a fire gutted Greece's largest migrant camp on Lesbos, provoking an outpouring of sympathy from around Europe and calls for reform of the refugee system.

A second fire late on Wednesday destroyed most of the remaining camp where another 8,000 lived in tents and makeshift shacks around the perimeter, the migration ministry said Thursday.

Greek government officials have claimed that the fire was the result of an arson attack and was organized as part of an attempt to put pressure on the government to transfer the people housed in Moira to the mainland or to other countries in Europe. 'It has been a very hard night, ' government spokesman Stelios Petsas said, adding that a state of emergency would be declared on the island.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had announced a four-month state of emergency for the island, which makes more resources available to address the crisis.

Authorities said they were sending 19,000 coronavirus test kits to Lesbos and a passenger ferry had docked at the island's port of Mytilini to house families.

Local media said the original fire was started by camp residents angered by lockdown measures and isolation orders imposed after 35 people tested positive for COVID-19.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, since March 1, all migrants reaching the island have been quarantined away from the camps.

Unable to pass, scores bedded down and slept on the ground. All of Moria's former residents are now banned from leaving the island, Petsas said.

"The situation in Moria can not go on (as it is) because it is simultaneously a public health and national security issue", Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a televised address, adding that managing migrant flows was a "European problem".

"The whole camp is on fire".

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Mr Hurman said that refugees trapped in Moria had been "absolutely fed up" with the situation. It is very bad that so many in the refugee camp, where circumstances were already dire, have been affected by the fires.

A migration ministry official said the Moria camp, which hosts more than 12,000 people, was "probably totally destroyed".

Firefighters also said they had been blocked from entering the camp to battle the blaze by a group of refugees and had asked for police assistance.

Greece's migration minister said the fires "began with the asylum seekers".

Video showed people fleeing the camp overnight, the sky orange and yellow, as the camp's tents and shipping containers were engulfed in flames.

One chair for every refugee holed up in the Moria camp.

He added that Moria camp's "administration premises, the premises of the Asylum Service and other administrative facilities were destroyed".

Prostitution, sexual assault, disappearances of minors, drug trafficking and fights have been documented in the camp, where dozens of people have been stabbed, burnt to death in their tents or have committed suicide.

"Even those affected by Ebola still have the hope to survive or they have the support of their family, their society, their village, their relatives". Among those living in the camp were 4,000 children.

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