Locals and migrants demonstrate against temporary camp on Lesvos

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Since the fire that destroyed refugee camp Moria on Tuesday night, tensions on the Greek island of Lesbos have increased. Police on Saturday used tear gas against protesting camp residents, while residents of the island block the construction of new shelters with roadblocks.

Local residents set up roadblocks

Since the fire, thousands of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees have been sleeping in the open air, on roadsides and on fields. The Greek government has declared an emergency on the island and is building a temporary tent camp with space for three thousand people. A few thousand are still taken care of on boats. More than eleven thousand refugees are currently homeless, according to aid organizations.

Clashes between the police and asylum seekers took place in the vicinity of the new camp. Order troops fired tear gas and some residents of Moria threw stones at officers, news agency writes AFP. The fire brigade also extinguished a fire that raged earlier in the day at a police blockade.

Three asylum seekers have been passed out by tear gas and taken away by ambulances, local sources said AFP. “We do not want to be a political sacrifice,” said protesters’ signs calling for freedom.

Aid agencies repeatedly described conditions in the Moria camp as “inhumane.” Camp residents want to get away from the island. But the Greek authorities are already opening the new camp this Saturday.

Many local residents on Lesvos are also against a new camp, blocking roads to prevent construction. The army and fire brigade use helicopters to get building materials to location. Since the fire, the island has been in a state of emergency.

The mayor of Mytilene, the capital of Lesvos, calls the construction of new camps unrealistic: “We must forget about any thought about new camps,” Stratis Kytelis told local media Friday. “The island community can’t take it anymore [..] for health reasons, social cohesion and national security ”.

Since the collapse of the deal with Turkey, whereby EU member states would accept one Syrian refugee for every migrant who took in Turkey, the camp has become heavily overcrowded. Almost thirteen thousand people lived, while the camp was designed for three thousand inhabitants.

For the past six months, the camp had been severely quarantined due to the corona crisis. A week before the fire, the camp was almost closed to the outside world, because a corona case had been diagnosed for the first time.

At least 35 people have now been tested positive. The Greek migration minister announced on Saturday that rapid tests will be conducted at the entrance of the new, temporary camp.

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