Dozens of migrants, including young children, slept rough in a cemetery on the Greek island of Lesvos on Thursday, after a blaze razed their makeshift camp to the ground, sending them fleeing but with nowhere to go.
With no possessions left, lacking food and water, they gathered in the cemetery near the village of Moria to contemplate a bleak feature. There had been about 12,500 people in the camp.
Tuesday night’s inferno at Moria sent thousands fleeing, reducing a camp notorious for its poor living conditions to nothing more than a mass of smoldering steel and melted tent tarpaulins.
Thousands slept on roadsides and in supermarket parking lots and fields across the island.
A second fire broke out on Wednesday night, destroying whatever was left. Police reinforcements were brought in to prevent migrants from reaching the island’s main town of Mytilene, confining them to fields and roadsides.
On Wednesday evening, Greek Migration minister Notis Mitarakis vowed that “All necessary actions will be taken to immediately shelter families and vulnerable persons to begin with.” Two Greek Navy vessels will provide additional sleeping berths, he said.
He added that asylum-seekers had started the fire because they were upset over quarantine measures imposed after 35 people at the camp tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Officials have declared a four-month emergency on Lesvos and flown in additional riot police.
Unaccompanied children leave
“I express my sorrow over Tuesday’s incidents in Moria,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated in an announcement. “I recognize the difficult conditions; however, nothing can become an alibi for violent reactions during health checks.
“The condition in Moria can’t continue because it is an issue of public health, humanism and national safety.”
“The unaccompanied children are leaving already from Moria,” PM Mitsotakis noted, adding that he has briefed the European authorities. He stated that the “migration management problem is first of all a European problem”.
European countries from Germany to Norway – along with EU chiefs – have responded with offers of help, amid calls for urgent reform of the bloc’s asylum system.