The more than 12,000 migrants who were left without shelter after a fire in the Moria camp now fear for the conditions of the new facilities
The Greek police began this Thursday the transfer of hundreds of migrants stranded on the island of Lesbos to a temporary compound of tents a week after a fire devastated the Moria camp, where they remained waiting to be able to advance their way to other countries of the European Union (EU). Hundreds of refugees had found a makeshift shelter in the parking lot of a popular shopping center on the island and many were refusing to be transferred to another camp for fear of being trapped longer in a compound with the same conditions as Moria’s. Theodoros Chronopoulos, a police spokesman, has assured that the objective is “to protect public health” and has reported that the transfer to a temporary facility is an “ongoing operation” that “responds to humanitarian purposes.”
The new Kara Tepe camp, where the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has already erected some 600 tents, stands near the port of Mytilene, the island’s capital, and is ready to receive at least 5,000 people . On Wednesday, only 1,200 migrants, of about 12,000 who had been left in the open after seeing their houses scorched by flames, had accepted the transfer. And this morning the first 250 have already entered. The objective of this new camp, according to the local authorities, is that the refugees “can leave the island gradually and quietly towards Athens” or “be resettled elsewhere”. informed the representative in Greece of Acnur, Philippe Leclerc. “UNHCR is putting pressure on the authorities [griegas] for make faster the process [de solicitud de asilo] so that people don’t stay here too long ”, he added.
Officials have reported that some of the migrants are reluctant to move to the new camp, as they wish to leave the island of Lesbos for the European mainland. During the morning of this Thursday, 450 migrants had already left the parking lot of the shopping center to go to Kara Tepe; 250 are already inside the new field; and 56 migrants have tested positive for covi-19, as reported by a government official to Reuters.
Under the sun and with a backdrop of crying children, several refugees this morning began to fold their blankets and dismantle the tents they had improvised on the asphalt. They carry with them the bags with the belongings that they managed to save from the flames that left more than 12,000 migrants without shelter, most of them refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and some African countries such as Somalia. The Hellenic authorities have already arrested six suspects of having caused the fire.
While the eviction and transfer to the other camp are taking place, the Greek police in Lesbos have blocked the area to Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the media, according to Reuters. The health workers were unable to reach the emergency clinic that the NGO has opened in this area on Wednesday night. “The evacuation was underway,” the humanitarian organization informed the agency France Presse (Afp). On Twitter, the organization has complained about the practices of the local authorities: “A police operation is underway to bring the refugees to the new camp. This should not prevent medical assistance ”.
The Greek Minister of Civil Protection, Michalis Chrysochoidis has estimated that half of the migrants could leave Lesbos by Christmas and the rest before Easter. The authorities would continue “for a few more days and with good faith and communication” the attempts to convince the migrants to enter the new camp, and they trust that the complete transfer will be completed in a few days.