- The cause of the fire is under investigation.
- Moria is the largest refugee camp in Europe.
- The refugees have been transferred to other camps.
In the early hours of Wednesday, a fire broke out in several parts of the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. The wind ignited the fire and spread it throughout the camp and its surroundings. Twenty-eight firefighters tried to contain the blaze with eight fire engines. The fire is now under control.
“At this moment the reception center has been completely destroyed,” Greece’s alternate migration minister, Giorgos Koumoutsakos, told reporters. He said it was miraculous there had been no deaths or injuries. “As a result, thousands of people are homeless.”
Asylum seekers were evacuated due to the fire spreading to residential containers. Smoke and fire blocked the escape route of the camp residents in cyberspace and in the local Greek media. No casualties were reported.
At least 12,700 refugees, including 7,000 children, have been housed in the Moria camp. However, the capacity of this camp is less than 2,900 people. Asylum seekers have repeatedly called for relocation to other parts of Greece or other European countries in protest of the current situation.
“I recognize the difficult circumstances,” Prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, expressing sorrow over the fire. “However, nothing can become an excuse for violent reaction to health checks. And, more so, for unrest of this extent.”
The mayor of the island of Lesbos, in the eastern Aegean, also expressed concern about the uncontrollable situation months ago due to the overcrowding of the camp, and warned of the dangers and consequences.
The cause of the fire is currently only speculated. Asylum seekers said locals set fire to the camp. People also say that asylum seekers started the fire.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis held an emergency meeting immediately after the fire in Lesbos. The meeting was attended by the Minister of Immigration, the Chief of the Greek Intelligence Service, and the Chief of Staff of the Greek Army.
A Greek government spokesman said the fire was “organized and suspicious.” He also said that the asylum seekers had tried to block the work of the fire brigade.
The outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic is another problem for Camp Moria asylum seekers. A 40-year-old man from Somalia tested positive for coronavirus recently. This has raised concerns about the widespread outbreak of COVID-19 at Camp Moria.
Greek authorities have quarantined the Moria camp. Greek health officials, however, say that so far 35 positive coronavirus cases have been reported among the camp’s asylum seekers.
EU refugee rights groups have blamed the deteriorating situation in the Moria camp. Ramona Lenz, of the aid organization Midkal International, says the European Union could have provided better conditions for refugees by evacuating refugee camps in the Greek islands.
There are currently tens of thousands of refugees, including on the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, and Lyros.