Fire has destroyed the overcrowded Moria camp on the island of Lesbos.
The main blaze was put out on Wednesday and it is still unclear as to how the fire began, however some factions of the press are blaming migrants and others are blaming Greek locals for starting the fire.
The Athens Macedonian News Agency reports that the fire broke out at 2am after clashes began with some of the 35 refugees who tested positive to COVID-19 refusing to move into isolation with their families.
Fires broke out in three places at the camp, according to reports of local fire chief Konstantinos Theofilopoulos who spoke to state television.
Around 10 fire engines with 25 firefighters and additional volunteers rushed to fight the blaze as migrants were evacuated through cordoned off roads to prevent those who had been detained at the facility from escapig and entering nearby towns.
The fire at the camp has resulted in many homeless. The facility, created to hold 3,000, was crammed with 13,000 people from 70 different countries now left without shelter. Authorities are struggling to find accommodation for the migrants while the government has declared a four-day state of disaster.
Deputy Civil Protection and Management Crises Minister Nikos Hardalias declared a state of emergency on the island for reasons of public health.
Meanwhile, the police has sent reinforcements to the island to deal with the situation. The area outside the reception and identification centre has been totally destroyed while a large part of the area inside the centre has suffered serious damage. The asylum centre and its equipment have reportedly been burnt while the Intensive Care Unit has also been damaged.
Greek Migration and Asylum Seeker Minister Notis Mitarachi said a passenger ferry and two Navy landing ships will accommodate about 2,000 refugees who are homeless after the fire at Moria.
He added that Moria camp’s “administration premises, the premises of the Asylum Service and other administrative facilities were destroyed. Also, the new health unit’s intensive care area was burnt, while the accommodation areas of the camp’s general population, although extensively damaged, will be repaired.”
During the fire, as he said, the priority was “the transfer of unaccompanied minors to an area outside the structure and its evacuation, to protect the lives of residents and staff, while at the same time to take all necessary security measures.”
He added that “so far, no injuries, casualties or missing persons have been reported.”
Mr Mitarachi said 400 unaccompanied minors from the camp are being transferred away from Lesvos island. “There are 3,500 asylum seekers whose living quarters were destroyed by the fire and we are taking emergency measures for them. First of all, the most vulnerable, about 1,000 people, will spend the night, as of today, onboard a ship, which is expected to arrive at the port of Mytilini late Wednesday, and which is provided free-of-charge by the shipping company Blue Star Ferries, which we thank for its kind offer,” he said, adding that two Navy ships were expected on Thursday to be used as temporary shelter for asylum seekers while remaining residents will be placed in tents at Moria.
UN agencies offered support on Wednesday with the UNHCR refugee energy, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the EU’s Asylum SUpport Office working with the Greek government to organise the relocation of vulnerable groups to EU member states.
“This devastating tragedy compounds the already existing challenges and difficult conditions at Moria due to overcrowding and COVID-19”, said IOM chief António Vitorino.
“We are doing everything we can to support the Greek authorities and the affected migrants and refugees, to ensure their immediate care and safety as we work together on longer-term solutions.”