Lesbos migrant camp fire leaves families sleeping on the streets

Lesbos migrant camp fire leaves families sleeping on the streets

© Will VASSILOPOULOS Greek riot police fire tear gas at protesting asylum seekers on Lesbos island as tensions simmer following the catastrophic fire that ripped through Europe's largest migrant camp this week.

Hundreds of people marched across Lesbos on Saturday, chanting "Freedom" and "No camp". "That was hard. But being here, stuck, I think is worse", said Amados Iam, a 23-year-old from Mauritania.

The plight of the stranded families has prompted other European countries to offer to take in hundreds of asylum seekers, particularly unaccompanied youngsters. The fire was allegedly started by people who were angry on part of recent coronavirus restrictions that were imposed at the camp.

The first fire Tuesday night left about 3,500 of the camp's inhabitants homeless, the Greek migration minister said.

"I want to speak about the European Union - who abandoned us, who left us here like this", Musamba said.

Gaelle Koukanee, a pregnant 21-year-old Congolese refugee, said the police had fired tear gas during the operation to extinguish the fire. "We are seeing children who are bored playing on the street with sticks or whatever they can find; we are seeing very frustrated adults, very tired-looking individuals disillusioned with the process of asylum which has seemed to be unable to deliver timely decisions", he added.

Just before the blazes that burned down the Moria camp, 35 people tested positive for Covid-19 and were facing isolation measures.

A second fire broke out late on Wednesday, destroying most of the remaining camp where another 8,000 lived in tents and makeshift shacks around the perimeter.

Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis also called for the immediate deportation of any residents of camp who may have contributed to the fire.

Image; Migrants wait in a queue for food distribution near Mytilene town, on the northeastern island of Lesbos, Greece, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. "We have no toilets or showers". "Also, Greek authorities should ensure that respect for human rights is at the center of its response to this fire", the rights group's Eva Cosse said in a statement.

Pope Francis, speaking to worshippers attending Sunday's prayer in St Peter's Square in Rome, mentioned the dire situation of the migrant camp on the Greek island.

Germany and France on Thursday agreed on an initiative for European Union states to share out some 400 minors from the camp, a source close to the talks told AFP.

"As a preliminary step we are offering to Greece to accept refugees who are minors - other steps must follow", German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a panel discussion in Berlin.

Numerous mostly Afghan asylum seekers have spent months in desperate conditions on the island, hoping in vain to be allowed to cross tightly shut European borders.

'Europe must move from words of solidarity to a policy of acts of solidarity, ' he said at a summit of Mediterranean leaders in Corsica.

"It will be tents of six and the camp will be separated by ethnicities", Alexandros Ragavas said. Those teens and children were flown to the Greek mainland on Wednesday, and several European countries will take some of them in. Most migrants are from Afghanistan and Syria. "The problem is that many of them are resisting, and large numbers of them have gone into hiding thinking this is their chance to make it to the mainland, and then potentially, to the heart of Europe". Others camped in a cemetery.

"This is Europe?" asked Hani, clutching her two-year-old son.

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