Several fires have broken out in and around Greece’s largest refugee camp. Photos depict dramatic scenes. The situation is still confusing.

The large fire in the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos has been largely under control since Wednesday morning, according to information from the government. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has arranged a crisis meeting in Athens this morning, government spokesman Stelios Petsas told state television broadcaster ERT. In addition to the ministers of migration and civil protection, the Head of the Greek Intelligence Service (EYP) and the Chief of Staff will also participate. Organized arson is suspected, according to Petsas.

The spokesperson also confirmed that migrants had tried to prevent firefighters from doing the extinguishing work. As the Greek media reported unanimously, there were no injuries or even deaths on Wednesday morning. Athens has sent additional riot police to the island.

Fire fueled by winds

The refugee camp was almost completely on fire after several fires broke out on Wednesday evening. The fire raged on in the early morning hours, fueled by winds of up to 70 kilometers per hour. According to reports in Greek media, authorities began evacuating the camp that night after living containers caught fire.

Images of the fire were shown on Twitter on Wednesday evening. There was talk of a “catastrophe” on social media. Volunteers on the ground reported that smoke and flames from people cut their escape routes. The aid organization “Mission Lifeline” spoke in a tweet of a “riot” in the camp. “The detained refugees are defending themselves against the lockdown,” the tweet said.

The background is still unclear

This was preceded by unrest among the migrants, because the camp had been quarantined since last week after a first corona virus case. On Tuesday it was announced that the number of infected people was 35. Some migrants then wanted to leave the camp to avoid contracting the virus, the semi-state Greek news agency ANA-MPA reported. In contrast, some infected people and their contacts who would be isolated refused to leave the camp and be put in isolation.

A fire is burning on Lesvos: it is reported to be burning in the Moria refugee camp. (Source: Reuters)

Whether the fires were started by migrants or islanders remained unclear for the time being – information on this initially differed. After the fire broke out, camp inmates threw stones at the firefighters and tried to keep them from extinguishing, the operations chief reported on television. Special units of the riot police were in action. Videos on social networks showed lost, scared people as well as those who said “Bye, Moria!” sang. Watch the dramatic scenes in the video here.

Almost 13,000 people live in the overcrowded camp

Many of the migrants and refugees who last lived in the camp fled to the surrounding forests and hills, others made their way to the island’s capital, Mytilini, as reported by Greek media. In some places islanders are said to have opposed them and blocked their way.

There have always been tensions in Moria, the situation has now literally exploded due to the corona problem, Mayor Stratos Kytelis of Mytilinis told Greek state broadcaster ERT. It is not known where people are to be housed now, thousands are homeless. The situation is also a huge burden for the local population.

The Moria refugee camp has been hopelessly overcrowded for years; According to the Greek Ministry of Migration, about 12,600 refugees and migrants have recently lived there – with a capacity of only 2,800 places.

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