Monday, March 1, 2021

Fires destroy Greek island refugee camp after quarantine imposed

Authorities placed the Moria camp under quarantine last week after a Somali migrant tested positive for the coronavirus.

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Greece’s largest migrant camp, an overcrowded facility on the island of Lesbos, has burned down, leaving nearly 13,000 people without shelter.

The Moria camp was designed for fewer than 3,000 people.

“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,” local resident Thanasis Voulgarakis told the BBC.

In the chaos, local police blocked roads from the camp to prevent migrants entering nearby towns.

Some locals reportedly attacked and prevented migrants from fleeing through a nearby village as they escaped the flames.

Authorities placed the Moria camp under quarantine last week after a Somali migrant tested positive for the coronavirus.

There are now 35 confirmed cases linked to the site.

Fires broke out in more than three places in a short space of time, local fire chief Konstantinos Theofilopoulos told state television channel ERT.

Some protesting migrants hindered firefighters who tried to tackle the flames, he said.

It is unclear exactly how the fires started, but Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said the “incidents in Moria began with the asylum seekers because of the quarantine imposed”.

Some of the 35 people who had tested positive for Covid-19 had reportedly refused to move into isolation with their families.

Mitarachi did not say, however, that the fires were a deliberate act of arson aimed at destroying the camp.

Michalis Fratzeskos, deputy mayor for civil protection, told ERT the blaze was definitely “premeditated”. Migrant tents had been empty, he said, and arsonists had “taken advantage of strong winds”.

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