Greece: Fires at country’s biggest refugee camp force thousands to flee

More than 12,000 people are in need of emergency shelter after fires tore through Greece’s largest refugee camp.

The blazes broke out after midnight at the overcrowded Moria camp, which was originally meant to house about 2,000, on the island of Lesbos.

The site was “probably totally destroyed”, according to a migration ministry official who said the government was struggling to find alternative shelter for the migrants gathered on streets outside.

“It’s been a very difficult night,” government spokesperson Stelios Petsas said.

The island has now been put under a state of emergency for four months for public health reasons, and police reinforcements have been sent to help keep order.

There are no reports of injuries, and fire and police services say the cause of the blazes remains unclear.

“The camp has been evacuated. All these people are on the national road towards (the town of) Mytilini,” said witness Panagiotis Deligiannis.

“There are police out who are not letting them through. These people are sleeping left and right in the fields.”

Local reports claim the fires were started deliberately as a protest against lockdown measures recently imposed in the camp.

Aid groups said it was impossible to implement social distancing and basic hygiene measures there as the site was so overcrowded.

The camp was put under quarantine last week after a Somali resident contracted coronavirus.

Some 35 people at the camp were confirmed to have the virus after tests were carried out.

They were understood to be being kept in isolation at a separate location close to the camp.

Other reports said the whereabouts of the 35 were unknown, raising concerns they might spread the virus on the island.

Mytilini mayor Stratis Kytelis said migrants would have to be moved or housed on ships to prevent further COVID-19 cases.

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