Greece arrests five people over Lesvos migrant camp fire

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image copyrightReuters

legendMany migrants remain reluctant to enter this new camp

Greek police have arrested five migrants following the Lesvos fire that destroyed an overcrowded migrant camp last week, a Greek minister said.

The five are young foreign nationals and a sixth is wanted, said Minister for Citizen Protection Michalis Chrisohoidis.

About 800 of the more than 12,000 migrants and refugees who fled Moria last week have moved to a new camp.

But the vast majority still sleep in the streets.

Greek authorities say 21 people in the new camp have tested positive for the coronavirus.

They are now isolated from other migrants in the temporary Kara Tepe camp, on a former military firing range near the devastated site of Moria. It is also close to the island’s main town, Mytilene.

image copyrightEPA

legendDrone photo from September 14 shows Moria camp completely ravaged by fire

The Greek government accused the migrants of starting the fire in Moria a week ago, as they were angered by the isolation measures imposed to stem the coronavirus epidemic. The migrants disputed this, blaming the hostile residents of the blaze.

The German government has now agreed to take in 1,553 migrants from Moria – they come from 408 families who have been granted refugee status.

Previously, Germany had also said it would accept up to 150 unaccompanied minors from Moria. Greece transported 400 children to the mainland last week, and EU countries have agreed to take them in, although details are not yet clear.

The goal of the Greek government is currently to accommodate the more than 12,000 migrants from Moria in the new temporary camp, although it recognizes that most are reluctant to go there. After the misery of Moria, most migrants want to go elsewhere in Europe.

But apart from Germany, no other EU country has offered to host hundreds of migrants.

media legendBBC’s Jean Mackenzie spent time talking to people at the camp just six months ago and reflecting on his experiences there

Meanwhile, off the coast of Crete, Greek rescuers rescued 56 migrants from a capsized boat but two children and a woman drowned.

Their bodies were found 12 nautical miles (14 miles) off the east coast of Crete and it is not yet known whether there were any other casualties.

The Greek Coast Guard Service said four ships and two helicopters participated in the search late Monday amid high winds.

Most of those who fled Moria have spent six nights sleeping on the streets, many on a Mytilene road which is blocked by police, preventing them from reaching the port.

People from 70 countries had been hosted in Moria, most of them from Afghanistan.

Greece plans to build a permanent reception center for migrants and refugees in Lesvos. And he says that in most cases, migrants can only leave Lesvos after their asylum claims are processed.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is equipping the Kara Tepe temporary camp. So far, conditions are said to be very basic, with migrants lacking mattresses and showers.

Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis, quoted by the Greek daily Ekathimerini, said the temporary camp would be able to accommodate all those in the emptied Moria camp.

media legendThousands of migrants and refugees demand more permanent housing elsewhere

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said it was “time for Europe’s support to move from words to deeds, to speaking out in tangible solidarity”. He was speaking on Tuesday after meeting the President of the Council of the EU, Charles Michel, in Athens.

Moria camp was initially designed to accommodate 3,000 migrants and refugees. However, at the time of its destruction, more than 12,000 people were accommodated there.

Fires broke out in more than three locations in the camp overnight last Tuesday, according to local fire chief Konstantinos Theofilopoulos. Other fires almost completely destroyed it.

Since the 2015 migrant crisis, the number of arrivals on Greek islands close to Turkey has dropped significantly, but Greek camps remain overcrowded, as do those in Italy.

Greece and Italy have accused richer northern EU countries of not sharing the burden, as irregular migrants – including refugees from war zones – continue to seek new life in Europe .

Central and Eastern European members of the EU reject the idea of ​​hosting a quota of migrants and, at the end of this month, the European Commission is expected to present a new plan to tackle the migration crisis.

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