Lesvos fire: Residents of migrant camp cannot leave, Greece says

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The site is in Kara Tepe, near an existing camp, according to the Greek Migration Ministry. Army helicopters transported tents and other supplies to the new temporary camp.

Migrants and refugees, who now line the main road connecting the island town of Mytilene and Moria, will be directed to the site by authorities.

They will need to register and undergo rapid coronavirus tests before being allowed in.

Greek authorities have said the fires in Moria appeared to have been deliberately started after quarantine rules were imposed on residents who tested positive for the coronavirus in Europe’s largest refugee camp.

Many do not want to go back to a refugee camp and want to leave the island, but the Greek government has insisted that he “will not be blackmailed”.Officials said there were no plans to move more migrants from Lesvos after the transfer of 406 unaccompanied children to mainland Greece following the blaze that this week destroyed much of Moria.

Moria was home to around 13,000 people, more than six times its capacity.

Refugees in the camp were left homeless and starving after the fires, some sleeping by roadsides and gas stations while dozens of families took refuge in a nearby cemetery.

Greek Migration Minister Konstantinos Kostakos’ chief of staff said authorities would temporarily resettle around 1,000 migrants – especially those from vulnerable groups – on a ship that docked in Sigri, on the west side of the island. .

“This is the first ship to dock on the island. If there is a need, we will consider bringing more, ”said Kostakos. But he warned that they will not be moved off the island.

Homeless refugees and migrants gathered on the road on Friday after thousands were left homeless in the devastating blaze.

“The Greek government will not be subjected to blackmail. What happened – this “burn and go” tactic will not be tolerated. ”

Kostakos said on Friday that officials were looking for migrants who tested positive for the coronavirus. “The 35 [who tested positive for Covid-19] have not yet been located, ”he said.

“They are still missing. We are introducing rapid Covid testing and new isolation spaces are also being created. We expect the situation to be under control very soon. “

Migrants hold up a banner during a protest on Friday as they call for help from Europe.

Several camp residents told CNN they believed Greek residents, rather than migrants, were responsible for the fires.

Residents of Lesvos have set up several roadblocks on the island to prevent the entry of the army or other vehicles carrying materials to rebuild or clean up the camp.

Residents were already at odds with the government over plans to replace Moria, fearing that this would mean thousands of asylum seekers would stay on the island permanently.

France and Germany join forces

German Chancellor Angela Merkel last night confirmed a plan by France and Germany to remove minors from the island, hoping other EU countries will join as well.

“I asked the Greek Prime Minister how we can help and he asked that we welcome the minors who have been taken to the Greek mainland,” said Merkel.

“We contacted France. Germany and France will participate. ”

Merkel said the migration issue was not just Germany’s problem, nor the problem of the country people are arriving in, adding that it must become a “European responsibility”.

His confirmation came after French President Emmanuel Macron said the two countries were coordinating to find a solution to accommodate the refugees in the camp.

He added that Europe should stand in solidarity with Greece in the face of “the terrible reality that awaits us”.

‘Anger and despair’

It is still unclear exactly how the fires started in the sprawling encampment, which stretches from the main UN camp to olive groves where thousands of people live in makeshift wooden huts in squalid conditions. Residents say they wait hours to go to the bathroom and sometimes spend an entire day queuing for food.

When CNN reported from the camp in March, a smell of rank filled the air, the river was littered with garbage, and camp residents staged almost daily protests at the island’s main port demanding transport to the Greek mainland.

German charity Mission Lifeline said in a statement that “the anger and desperation of refugees who have been interned in Moria has flared” after a coronavirus lockdown was imposed.

“First there was an argument at the Covid-19 station in the camp that spread throughout the area overnight. The security forces used tear gas, ”the statement read. “A large part of the houses burned down. The homeless fled to the surrounding olive groves. ”

Axel Steier, co-founder of Mission Lifeline, said he warned the situation would “degenerate” due to poor camp conditions.

“The people of Moria are exposed to extreme psychological stress. Locking down the camp has now been the last straw, ”Steier said. “The refugees from Moria are not treated like humans. “

A man sits on a security fence as homeless migrants and refugees sleep on the side of a road after the fire.

Faris Al-Jawad of Doctors Without Borders told CNN: “I was here also in 2018, until 2019, and I thought at the time that it couldn’t really get any worse. I am here now in 2020, and I was wrong: it is worse, and for the children too. We are talking about children who have potentially never known anything but war and now their future is once again taken from them. ”

The resident of the Congolese camp, Paul Kadima Muzangueno, told CNN that a group of miners started the fire.

“They started fires everywhere,” Muzangueno said. “Everything quickly deteriorated. The police did not get the situation under control. ”

Another resident, who refused to disclose his full name for security reasons, said that “some people living in the camp were angry with the quarantine. They started a small fire. So the police came and there was tear gas. And then the fire intensified and we had to run. ”

“There is nothing there. I stand in the street, near the camp, there are a lot of people here. There are also police officers but they do not tell us where to go. We have no food or water. They say ‘wait here.’ It is very hot today and there are women and babies, ”he added.

“We lost everything, like clothes and medicine,” Mahtab, an Afghan migrant, told CNN.

Melissa Bell reported from Lesbos and Elinda Labropoulou and Chris Liakos from Athens, Greece. CNN’s Zahid Mahmood, Emma Reynolds, Stephanie Halasz and Tamara Qiblawi contributed to this report.

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