Greek Prime Minister: conditions in Camp Moria no excuse for violence

The Greek Prime Minister, Mitsotakis, has lashed out at the perpetrators of the fires that burned the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos. On television, he criticised the attitude ‘of some migrants who in all probability caused the fires and then hindered the fire service in its work’.

Mitsotakis acknowledged that the conditions in the camp were difficult and that the outbreak of the coronavirus and the measures that followed made them even more difficult. But according to him that should not be an excuse for chaos and violence.

He went on to say that the thousands of migrants made homeless by the fires will not be allowed to leave the island. Only 400 single children will be taken elsewhere. The Greek government is trying to arrange emergency shelter for the other residents.

This afternoon, a plane with hundreds of tents arrived on Lesbos. A thousand vulnerable people will be accommodated on a ferry for the time being. People will also be housed on two naval ships.

Roadblocks

Moria is the largest migrant camp in Greece. There is room for less than 3,000 people, but probably 13,000 of them come from Afghanistan.

Last night a fire broke out at several places in the camp. Partly because the fire brigade was pelted with stones and sticks, a large part of the camp burned down. Thousands of people fled; according to the Greek government some 3,700 people were left homeless. The police set up roadblocks to prevent them from spreading across the island.

However, that seems to be only moderately successful. According to correspondent Conny Keessen the chaos is great. “People are everywhere. In olive groves, along the roads, on the way to the capital, even if they are stopped there.”

Corona

Tensions around the refugee camp have been high for a long time. This week it escalated after corona was established. An infected Somali man is said to have brought the virus in from outside the camp.

Yesterday it became known that 35 migrants have been infected. They were isolated with their families and a large part of the camp went into lockdown. Protests against these measures appear to have resulted in arson and violence, although it is also said that the fires were started by Greeks who would like to turn against the migrants.