Greek riot police clashed with angry migrants at the Moria facility on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos following a fire sparked by rioting on Sunday. A woman and a child died during the fire, while nine men, six women and four children were also being treated for injuries and smoke inhalation at Mytilene General Hospital.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis convened a Cabinet meeting on Monday to discuss issues related to migration policy following the rioting that resulted in additional officers deployed from Athens in C-130 army planes in order to contain the situation.
The Greek Health Ministry issued a statement on Monday about the fire and the subsequent clashes at the Moria Reception and Identification Centre for refugees and migrants. “The majority of those injured have orthopedic injuries and respiratory problems. None of them are considered at risk and it is expected that they will be discharged within the next few days,” the announcement said.
Greek Citizen Protection Deputy Minister Lefteris Economou along with the chief of police and the secretary general for migration policy are due to visit the camp.
Oxfam’s head of mission in Greece, Renata Rendon, said that the deaths were “appalling” and a “direct consequence of the EU’s migration policies. The EU-Turkey deal forces refugees and other migrants to live in overcrowded, unfit camps which pose a direct threat to their safety”.
The EU-supported Moria ‘hotspot’ for refugees has an official capacity to host 3,100 people, however there are currently 13,000 people living inside the ‘hotspot’ and the adjacent tented camp.
The unrest was reportedly sparked by anger and unrest at the dire living conditions inside and outside the camp. Refugees are also angered by the delays in transfers to the mainland as they have to wait more than a year before authorities decide on their asylum claim.
The five EU ‘hotspots’ on the Aegean islands are built to host 6,300 people, but currently more than 26,200 people are living there.
The Greek government has already admitted that it doesn’t have the capacity to accommodate so many migrants on the islands and has pledged to discuss a new asylum law to deal with the migrant crisis.
The EU-Turkey deal stipulates that people seeking asylum, who arrive to the Greek islands from Turkey, cannot leave the islands so that they can be deported back to Turkey. Under an EU agreement reached in 2016, Turkey has made efforts to limit departures towards the Greek islands closest to its shores but the number of arrivals has been steadily climbing in recent months. This has been a burden on facilities.