Thousands of refugees have roughly slept on the Greek island of Lesvos for a second night after a fire razed the country’s largest camp, scaring the crowds away, but with nowhere to go.
Families slept by roadsides, in supermarket parking lots and in fields across the island, which was at the forefront of the European migrant crisis in 2015-2016.
There were around 13,000 people in the camp.
Tuesday night’s hell in Moria sent thousands scrambling for their lives, reducing the camp – known for its poor living conditions – to a mass of smoldering steel and melted tent tarpaulin.
A second fire broke out on Wednesday evening, destroying what little was left.
Desperate families, many with young children, spent Wednesday evening in the open air, some without tents or basic bedding. Some of the homeless have traveled to the nearest villages to find water and other supplies.
Police reinforcements were brought in to prevent refugees and migrants from reaching the island’s main town, Mytilene, confining them to fields and roadsides.
Eight-year-old Congolese girl Valencia, who was barefoot, signaled to a Reuters reporter that she was hungry and asked for a cookie. “Our house has burned down, my shoes have burned, we have no food and no water. “
She and her mother Natzy Malala, 30, who has a newborn baby, slept on the side of the road.
“There is no food, no milk for the baby,” said Natzy Malala.
Authorities declared a four-month emergency on Lesvos and sent additional riot police.
The migration ministry said it would take “all necessary measures” to ensure that vulnerable groups and families have shelter, but these are expected to face stiff resistance from residents. .
Authorities were already at odds with locals over plans to replace Moria with a closed reception center, which residents of Lesvos said would mean thousands of asylum seekers would remain permanently.
Municipalities disagreed over how to handle the situation, said Costas Moutzouris, governor of the northern Aegean Sea. “There is no decision. It’s pending, ”he told Reuters.
The Migration Ministry said a ferry had been sent to welcome hundreds of people ahead of the scheduled arrival of European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas to inspect conditions on the island.
John Psaropoulos of Al Jazeera, reporting from Lesvos, said the situation was dire for the government.
“It is difficult to see how the government will settle so many thousands of [refugees] who were left homeless and homeless.
“We are told that three ships are underway to house thousands of the most vulnerable people with young children, but that will likely leave a few thousand more without care. There is a huge problem because the municipality does not have the infrastructure to provide them. . “
A government official who declined to be named said sheltering refugees and migrants on boats was not a safe solution and sent the wrong message to migrants who wanted to leave Lesvos.
The fire brought another tragedy to refugees living in Moria. The camp was under quarantine restrictions due to a COVID-19 outbreak last week.
Authorities are investigating whether the fires on Tuesday evening were deliberately started after COVID-19 tests led to the isolation of 35 refugees.