Desperate migrants were seen fighting over bottles of water being handed out by volunteers on the Greek island of Lesbos today, amid clashes between protesters and riot police.
Greek riot police fired tear gas at protesting asylum seekers as tensions simmered following the catastrophic fire that ripped through Europe’s largest migrant camp there this week.
The camp housed 12,000 people in a space designed for only 2,800, and local volunteer groups have faced difficulty in supplying asylum seekers with food and water.
Thousands of asylum seekers have been sleeping rough on Lesbos since Wednesday when the Moria camp was destroyed in apparent arson attacks, with families huddling under blankets and sleeping in doorways or by roads.
Clashes occurred on Saturday noon near a new temporary camp built by Greek authorities where hundreds of young men gathered to protest, some throwing stones at riot police who responded with tear gas.
A fire set there earlier in the day near a police blockade had to be extinguished by the fire brigade.
Migrants scuffle to take bottles of water during a distribution by local authorities near Mytilene town, on the northeastern island of Lesbos, Greece, Saturday amid migrant protests and clashes with the police
A man is detained by police officers as refugees and migrants from the destroyed camp of Moria clash with the police, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, on Saturday, September 12, following the fire that ripped through Europe’s largest migrant camp
Refugees and migrants from the destroyed camp of Moria throw back tear gas fired by riot police during clashes, on the island of Lesbos, Greece. The migrant camp burned down earlier this week, leaving thousands homeless
A migrant woman and children react in terror after police threw tear gas during clashes near the city Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesbos
Refugees and migrants sleep outside a supermarket on the road leading to Mytilene town on the Greek island of Lesbos on Saturday
‘Freedom!’ said one handwritten sign held up by a protester. ‘We want to leave Moria,’ said another.
Round-the-clock efforts to find temporary shelter for over 11,000 people made homeless by the destruction of the Moria camp were still inadequate, rights groups said.
‘As thousands are now left sleeping rough in the hills around Moria or on the streets, tensions between local residents, asylum seekers, and police are increasing,’ Human Rights Watch warned in a statement on Saturday.
Clapping and chanting songs, the protesters demand to leave the island of Lesbos after thousands of migrants were left homeless following fires that destroyed the overcrowded Moria camp
Refugees and migrants from the Moria camp protest on the Greek island, with a banner that reads ‘We need moria’
A man kicks a tear gas canister during minor clashes between riot police and migrants near Mytilene. Thousands of asylum-seekers spent a fourth night sleeping in the open
The Greek government has said it would not be ‘blackmailed’ by the protesters and has no plans to relocate them away from the island
The Moria camp, which had been regularly criticised by the UN and rights groups for overcrowding and its dismal sanitary conditions, burned down in successive fires on Tuesday night and Wednesday.
Officials have blamed migrants for the blazes, the first breaking out shortly after 35 people tested positive for coronavirus and were facing isolation measures.
Many of the 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.
Athens has long complained that aside from providing funds, fellow EU members have done too little to help states like Greece and Italy, where most migrants first arrive on European soil
Officials have blamed migrants for the blazes, the first breaking out shortly after 35 people tested positive for coronavirus and were facing isolation measures
Refugees and migrants from the destroyed Moria camp are handed bottles of water by an NGO, on the island of Lesbos
Refugees and migrants from the destroyed Moria camp scuffle over bottles of water as they are handed out
Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi on Saturday said the new camp, a few kilometres (miles) from Moria at a location near the sea, would open later on Saturday with capacity for 3,000 people.
‘Rapid tests for coronavirus will be conducted at the entrance,’ Mitarachi told Skai TV
Alexandros Ragavas, a spokesman for the migration ministry, said vulnerable asylum seekers would be the first to be housed.
‘We will give priority to families. It will be tents of six and the camp will be separated by ethnicities. The process of moving people will start today,’ he told AFP news agency.
Military vehicles pass by migrants camping on a road leading to Mytilene town on the Greek island of Lesbos
Refugees and migrants from the destroyed Moria camp cook on fire during the early evening on the island of Lesbos on Friday night
Refugees sleep at a supermarket parking lot for a third night close to Mytilene. The camp housed 12,000 people in a space designed for only 2,800
Some who fled the fires on Tuesday and Wednesday night later tested positive for Covid-19, complicating attempts to round up migrants and get them into alternative accommodation
Yesterday, thousands of migrants left homeless on the Greek island of Lesbos after fires destroyed the overcrowded Moria camp protested against a new refugee camp being built on the island, as Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis confirmed a new facility would be made.
Clapping and chanting songs, the protesters demanding to leave the island were boisterous but peaceful on the road leading to the island’s main town.
Some held up signs pleading for help from Germany, a favoured destination for many migrants and refugees who arrive in Greece from the nearby Turkish coast.
Protesters march in front of the Greek parliament in Athens during a rally in support of the migrants on the island of Lesbos
A protester raises a placard that reads ‘Black live matter. Refugee lives matter’ during a demonstration in Athens
But the Greek government announced it would not be ‘blackmailed’ by the protesters and has no plans to relocate them away from the island.
Director of the Greek Migration Minister’s office, Konstantinos Kostakos, said around 1,000 migrants would be temporarily relocated onto a ship that has docked at Sigri, on the western side of the island.
He told CNN: ‘This is the first ship that has docked on the island. If there is a need we will consider bringing more.’
‘The Greek government will not be blackmailed. What happened – this ‘burn and go’ tactic – will not be tolerated.’
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis demanded more ‘active’ participation from the EU in housing the migrantas he said Athens will rebuild the notoriously overcrowded camp destroyed by fire.
‘A new facility will be needed… it will be done… (but) the management model must be different,’ Mitsotakis said after meeting with European Commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas in Athens.
‘We will discuss the maximum European participation in this effort. European solidarity cannot be limited to managing a crisis.’
Athens has long complained that aside from providing funds, fellow EU members have done too little to help states like Greece and Italy, where most migrants first arrive on European soil.
Mitsotakis said: ‘We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past… it’s not just a concern of Greece and other states on outer (EU) borders to manage this problem.’
The refugees slept in car parks and petrol stations last night after Greece’s largest refugee camp burned down – with locals setting up roadblocks to stop a new one being built.
Hungry families slept on roadsides and in fields across the island after the Moria camp was reduced to a mass of smouldering steel and melted tent tarpaulin following successive blazes on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Thousands of migrants left homeless on the Greek island of Lesbos after fires destroyed the overcrowded Moria camp protested against a new refugee camp being built on the island today
Protesters held up signs pleading for help from Germany, a favoured destination for many migrants and refugees who arrive in Greece from the nearby Turkish coast
Riot police attend the peaceful but boisterous protest on the road leading to the island’s main town today as thousands gather
The Greek government announced it would not be ‘blackmailed’ by the protesters and has no plans to relocate them away from the island
Some who fled the fires have tested positive for Covid-19 after an outbreak of the disease in the camp, further complicating attempts to round up migrants and get them into alternative accommodation.
Trucks were yesterday blocking access to the ruins of the camp to prevent a clean-up operation that would make way for new tents.
‘Now is the time to shut down Moria for good,’ said Vangelis Violatzis, a local municipal leader. ‘We don’t want another camp, and we will oppose any construction work. We’ve faced this situation for five years, it’s time for others to bear this burden.’
Greece’s government says the fire was started deliberately by asylum seekers protesting against quarantine measures at the camp, and is calling for Europe to share the burden of housing the migrants.
Angela Merkel’s interior minister Horst Seehofer said today that that 10 EU countries had agreed to take in some of the 406 unaccompanied children at the camp, with most of them set to go to France or Germany.
Protesters hold up signs saying the refugee camp ‘Moria kills’ and ‘we need peace and freedom’ as they demand to be moved from the island
Thousands of migrants descended on the road amid fears of coronavirus infections soaring amongst the refugee population in the now burned-down camp
Riot police in armour carry shield in preparation as the refugees call for resettlement. Around 1,000 migrants will be temporarily relocated onto a ship that has docked at Sigri, on the western side of the island
Peaceful but boisterous migrants, some in coronavirus facemasks, crowd the road in protest outside a BP garage, holding signs
A mirgant calls for aid from Germany, holding a sign reading ‘Germany please help us’, as protesters, including children, raise their arms in the air
Displaced migrants sleep in a supermarket car park on the island of Lesbos early today following the fire which destroyed Greece’s largest refugee camp
A woman holds her child as displaced asylum seekers wait to see whether they can board a bus out of Moria on Thursday
An aerial view on Thursday shows the aftermath of the fire which broke out on Tuesday night, leaving around 12,000 people homeless
The fire late on Tuesday at Moria camp, Greece’s main migrant facility, sent thousands fleeing for safety into surrounding olive groves.
‘We’ve lost everything, we were abandoned, without food, water or medicine,’ said Fatma Al-Hani, a Syrian woman who barely had time to grab her identity papers before the flames engulfed the camp.
Gaelle Koukanee, a pregnant 21-year-old Congolese refugee, said the police had fired tear gas during the operation to extinguish the fire.
‘We have children, old people, disabled among us. Why this lack of humanity?’ she asked, seeking shelter from the beating sun under an olive tree.
While nobody was seriously hurt, the Tuesday blaze destroyed the official part of the camp, which housed 4,000 people, ministers said.
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.
Another fire briefly broke out inside the camp on Thursday.
The minors in the Moria camp have been flown off Lesbos island and rehoused in ‘safe’ facilities in northern Greece, Athens said, adding that all had been tested for the coronavirus.
Migration minister Notis Mitarachi said that asylum seekers had started the fire because of quarantine measures imposed after 35 people at the camp tested positive for coronavirus.
Some who fled the fires on Tuesday and Wednesday night later tested positive for Covid-19, complicating attempts to round up migrants and get them into alternative accommodation.
Refugees set up camp on the road near Mytilene as families were forced to sleep in the open following the fires
An asylum seeker rests on a blanket at the roadside in Lesbos which has long been one of the main gateways to Europe
A boy sits on a trolley with belongings pulled by other young migrants as they walk on a road near Mytilene on Friday
Refugees find shelter outside a Lidl supermarket next to a road near Mytilene after 12,000 people were left homeless by the successive fires on Tuesday and Wednesday
A woman pushes a child in a shopping trolley as migrants take shelter in a car park in Mytilene on Thursday
A crowd of people stand near a road sign pointing to Moria in Greek and English as they search for new accommodation
Blockade: Lesbos residents park trucks head-to-head to barricade a road and stop the Moria migrant camp being cleaned up and replaced
Asylum seekers rest with their belongings by their heads after setting up camp on a roadside near Moria today
A migrant pulls a girl lying on a cart on the island of Lesbos today with refugees left homeless and hungry by the fire
A woman carries her child as asylum seekers walk on a roadside, many of them wearing masks following a coronavirus outbreak at the camp which Greek officials say led to the fire
Two men push a garbage bin with their belongings and children inside with one girl taking a sip from a water bottle
Displaced migrants wait in a line for food outside a Lidl supermarket in Mytilene yesterday
Refugees rest on the side of the road under blankets on Lesbos following the destruction of their migrant encampment
A man and a child wearing a mask pull their belongings along a road on Lesbos in the early hours of Friday morning
Asylum seekers find shelter outside a petrol station on Lesbos, with talks underway in Europe on how to re-settle the migrants
A group of women wearing face masks because of the coronavirus outbreak at the camp carry their belongings in bags today
Riot police units were brought to the port of Mytilene in Lesbos early this morning following Tuesday’s fire
Earlier this year, a plan to build a new camp on Lesbos stalled after locals clashed with riot police to prevent the construction.
‘We lacked toilets, showers and as women, we were afraid to walk at night. But now I’m even more worried about my future,’ Koukanee, the Congolese refugee, said.
Greek officials have declared a four-month emergency on the island and flew in extra riot police.
Germany and France on Thursday agreed on an initiative for EU 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.
The European Union must ‘assume more shared responsibility’ for migration policy, Merkel said.
Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wants that kind of sentiment transformed into action.
‘Europe must move from words of solidarity to a policy of acts of solidarity,’ he said at a summit of Mediterranean leaders in Corsica.
‘We have to put the migration crisis at the heart of our discussions and be much more concrete,’ he said.
Children sit on a blanket while adult migrants survey their belongings on a roadside camp on Lesbos on Friday
Asylum seekers carry their belongings as they walk on a roadside close to the remains of where they had been living
Asylum seekers carry their belongings including what appears to be a child’s toy as they walk on a road on Lesbos today
Refugees take shelter under tents and blankets on the side of a road today with their future thrown into uncertainty
A displaced asylum-seeker says her goodbyes as others wait to see if they are able to board a bus out of Moria
Migrants shower themselves in a ditch a few miles away from the Moria fire which broke out on Tuesday night
Refugees find shelter near the Lesbos coast early this morning, with thousands of people left homeless and hungry by the fire
Two Greek navy vessels would provide additional sleeping space, the migration ministry said.
The Netherlands offered to take in 100 of the migrants, half of them minors.
European Commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas, who visited Lesbos on Thursday, said they had organised the transfer of 400 unaccompanied minors to the mainland with a view to their relocation in Europe.
‘And in the next few hours, there will be ships financed by the European Union to provide shelter to those vulnerable, more-in-need,’ he said.
Since becoming one of the main gateways into Europe for migrants and asylum seekers in 2015, Greece has built dozens of detention centres around the country.
But with other European nations accepting only a small trickle of refugees, thousands remain trapped in the Greek camps in usually dismal health conditions.
Greece’s conservative government has also toughened its asylum restrictions, slashing cash benefits and accommodation provisions to discourage further migration.
‘This is Europe?’ asked Fatma, clutching her two-year-old son.
‘I’ve had enough, I just want my baby to grow up in peace,’ she said, breaking down in tears.
A military helicopter transfers packages with tents in order to make an improvised camp for homeless refugees
People set up tents in order to set up a makeshift camp for homeless refugees to the shooting range of Kara Tepe today
Local volunteer groups have faced difficulty in supplying asylum seekers with food and water.
‘We are sleeping in the dirt or on the road under the open sky,’ a group of migrants from the former camp said on Facebook, noting that some people had even found shelter under the trees of the local Greek cemetery.
Sleeping on the roadside and in parking lots, men, women and children have made use of whatever they can find in nearby fields, pinning tarpaulins on tree branches and reeds in a bid for privacy and protection from the beating sun.
The local mayor has rejected efforts to build new temporary camps as ‘unrealistic’ and residents have tried to stop the construction of new camps by setting up roadblocks.
Army and fire service helicopters have been used to bypass the barriers.
‘Any thought to rebuild this sort of thing should be forgotten,’ Mytilene Mayor Stratis Kytelis told Antenna TV on Friday.
‘The island’s society cannot take any more… for reasons of health, social cohesion, national security,’ Kytelis said.
The plight of the stranded families has prompted other European countries to offer to take in hundreds of asylum seekers, particularly unaccompanied youngsters.
But Greece has long complained that, aside from providing funds, its EU partners have done too little to help.
Efforts in the past to create a quota system, which would have seen all European countries agree to take in refugees from Greece, have floundered due to opposition from right-wing governments, in particular in Poland and Hungary.
‘Moria is the Europe we need to change. High time for a truly European Migration Policy,’ European Commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas tweeted Thursday after visiting the island.
‘The fires highlight the failure of the European Union’s ‘hotspot approach’ on (Greek) islands, which has led to the containment of thousands of people… with the aim of returning them to Turkey, from which they transited,’ HRW said.
‘Some EU members have voiced agreement to relocate limited numbers of asylum seekers from Lesbos, but the EU response is hardly adequate or united’.