LESBOS, Greece – They slept on gravestones and by the side of the road, in parking lots and among the dried weeds on the hillsides. They set up makeshift tents with stakes and bamboo blankets. They used the few clothes they had to make mattresses so their babies wouldn’t sleep on the tarmac.
About 4,000 children, including hundreds of infants, and 8,000 adults found themselves stranded without shelter or sanitation facilities on the Greek island of Lesvos, most of them crammed along a 1.5 mile stretch of coastal road, since last week’s fires razed their squalid refugee camp, Europe’s largest.
“We escaped the fire, but everything is black,” said Mujtaba Saber, sitting on a thin blanket spread out in a street, next to his three-year-old son who was napping. Her 20-day-old baby was sleeping nearby in her mother’s arms.
The fires intensified what was already a humanitarian disaster on the Aegean islands, where Europe is storing tens of thousands of migrants in overcrowded camps with severe shortages of toilets, showers, medical care and even food.