Arson or not? What will happen to the refugees now? What can Germany do? Many questions arise after the fire in Moria. You can find the answers here.
A fire disaster broke out in the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. Large parts of the camp were on fire and thousands of migrants fled the camp. The situation on the ground is still confusing, many questions remain. An overview.
Several fires broke out in the Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos on Wednesday evening. The flames later got out of control and spread to the living quarters of the camp. More than 12,000 people fled the camp in panic. At least 25 firefighters with 10 vehicles, supported by police, reportedly fought the flames that flared both inside and outside the camp. The fire is now under control. Nevertheless, the Greek government declared a state of emergency on Lesvos on Wednesday morning.
What damage did the fire cause?
To date, no information has been given on deaths or injuries. There is conflicting information about the damage: the local fire brigade says that large parts of the camp were victims of the flames. Local helpers assume that almost half of the camp has been completely destroyed. Aerial photographs suggest that large areas of the camp were actually affected by the fire.
Destroyed container houses and tents in the Moria refugee camp: There were repeated fires in the refugee camp. (Source: Alkis Konstantinidis / Reuters)
State television, which was allowed to report from the camp with a special permit, showed images of charred container apartments and burnt tents around the camp. According to local news site Lesvospost, more than 3,000 tents, thousands of containers, administrative offices and a clinic in the camp have been destroyed.
Since the refugees in the overcrowded refugee camp live under the simplest conditions and usually only live in improvised huts, it can be assumed that after the fire they will no longer be inhabited.
Who started the fire?
In and around Moria there have been repeated fires lately. The reasons for this were varied: in some cases they were allegedly attacks by right-wing groups on the island seeking to expel the refugees from Greece for xenophobic reasons. Wednesday’s fire was apparently started by the refugees themselves. That reports the Greek news agency ANA. Accordingly, the fire is said to have been a protest from some of the camp residents who should be quarantined after a positive corona test.
It’s true: After the fire broke out, camp inmates threw stones at the firefighters and tried to prevent them from doing any extinguishing work, the chief of operations 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.
Why are the refugees burning their own camp?
Aid organizations have often criticized the unfavorable living conditions in Moria. The fire was preceded by unrest among the migrants as the camp was quarantined last week after an initial corona case. On Tuesday it was announced that the number of infected people was now 35. Some migrants then wanted to leave the camp to avoid contracting the virus, ANA news agency reported. In contrast, some infected people and their contacts who would be isolated refused to leave the camp and be put in isolation.
On the run again. Migrants save themselves from the flames in the surrounding forests. (Source: Elias Marcou / Reuters)
What will happen to the homeless refugees now?
Many of the more than 12,000 migrants and refugees who last lived in the camp fled to the surrounding forests and hills after the fire, while others were on their way to the island’s capital, Mytilene, according to Greek media. In some places islanders are said to have opposed them and blocked their way. Aid organizations try to help people. But the situation on Lesvos is tense: due to the corona problem, the situation has now exploded, 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 chair of the Bundestag human rights commission, FDP politician Gyde Jensen, called for immediate help: Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) may no longer “generally exclude” the admission of more refugees, demanded the Member of Parliament Wednesday. CDU politicians see it differently: the spokesman for the domestic policy of the union faction, Mathias Middelberg, spoke out against a national aid campaign for the people who live there. “The latest development in Lesvos shows how urgent a European response to refugee development is,” the CDU politician said Wednesday of the German news agency.
How is the EU responding?
The European Commission has already responded. EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson announced on Twitter online service on Wednesday that she has approved funding for the immediate relocation and housing of the 400 remaining unaccompanied minors in mainland Greece. She was in contact with the Greek authorities after the fire. “The safety and housing of all people in Moria is a priority.”
How is Germany responding?
North Rhine-Westphalian Refugee Minister Joachim Stamp (FDP) called for a swift response from the federal government and the EU. “It is sad that the EU has watched this escalation in Moria for so long,” Stamp said on Wednesday. Immediate action is now needed to prevent catastrophe from happening.
The federal states have already offered assistance, Stamp said. “The federal government must take over the coordination. Horst Seehofer and Heiko Maas have remained inactive so far. That must change immediately.” As Germany holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU, it has a special responsibility. “If the EU is not able to receive a few thousand migrants in a humane way, that is a bankruptcy declaration for the European value system.”
What does the government say?
It is not yet known whether Germany will take refugees from the camp. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) initially responded evasively: “We need to clarify with the EU Commission and other helpful EU member states as soon as possible how we can support Greece. This includes the distribution of refugees among those who are willing to give them in the EU, “he wrote. Twitter.
In March, after months of struggle, the federal government decided to take unaccompanied children from Greek refugee camps. A few hundred were then brought to Germany. Too little, as refugee organizations and the opposition criticized.