Thousands of asylum seekers have moved to a new temporary facility on the Greek island of Lesbos, according to officials, 10 days after a fire destroyed their former camp.
- More than 12,000 people were left without shelter after a fire in the notorious Moria camp
- Many were moved into new accommodation, where over 200 of the migrants tested positive for COVID-19
- NGOs are calling for closure of the camps and for Europe to help permanently resettle the migrants
The fire that broke out in Moria on September 9 left more than 12,000 people — most of them refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and various African countries — without shelter, proper sanitation or access to food and water.
No-one was hurt in the blaze.
By Saturday morning (local time), about 9,000 people had been resettled in the new tent camp, set up by authorities at Kara Tepe near the port of Mytilene.
A few hundred also moved into a community centre managed by a non-governmental organisation.
Hundreds test positive for coronavirus
Those entering the temporary camp were registered and tested for COVID-19. At least 214 were placed in quarantine after positive tests.
Traffic was returning to normal on the roads, where thousands of migrants had camped for days after the fire, and stores in the area started reopening.
Greek police launched an operation on Thursday to speed up the resettlement of migrants.
Many asylum seekers had been reluctant to enter the temporary camp as they had hoped to leave Lesbos after the fire and reach other European countries.
“It is critical that Europe demonstrates tangible solidarity to the pressure that the Greek islands have had over the last few years,” Greek Immigration Minister Notis Mitarachi said.
Catholic organisations including the Jesuit Refugee Service said the EU and individual European countries should promptly decide on the “necessary relocation” of minors, families and other individuals from Lesbos.
Pope Francis has said Europe must “do our part towards giving migrants, refugees and asylum seekers a humane and dignified welcome in Europe”.
The European Union is due to issue proposals to overhaul the bloc’s migration policy next week in an effort to end years of division among member states.
‘Humiliation, xenophobia and violence’
Speaking at a debate in the European Parliament on the situation in Greece, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said “there can be no more Morias”, adding that it was time for a fresh start on migration.
Several EU members have offered to take in refugees from Greece, led by Germany, which says it will take in 1,553 refugees from Greek Island camps who have had their asylum applications approved
Authorities believe the fire that gutted Moria camp was started by migrants after a dispute over COVID-19 quarantine measures.
Six people have been arrested and charged with arson.
Medecins Sans Frontieres said this week Greece should stop containment of asylum seekers on Lesbos and “break once and for all the cycle of suffering for people trapped on the Greek Islands”.
“On the ground, MSF teams only see more misery, more human suffering, a routine of humiliation, xenophobia and violence,” said Stephan Oberreit, MSF head of mission in Greece.