Lesbos refugee camp’s devastation is laid bare as Greece accuses migrants of burning down the camp


Greece has accused migrants of deliberately burning their overcrowded camp in Lesbos last week where hundreds were forced to relocate to.

Families, children, young men and pregnant women have been left wandering aimlessly since a blaze ripped through the Moria camp on the night of September 8, forcing its 12,000 occupants to sleep rough in abandoned buildings, on roadsides and even rooftops.

‘The camp was burned by refugees and migrants who wanted to blackmail the government in order to be rapidly transferred from the island (to the continent),’ Stelios Petsas, the Greek government’s spokesman, told reporters in Athens.

He gave no further details. Greece’s migrations minister last week made similar accusations, even as an investigation has yet to conclude.

Greece has accused migrants of deliberately burning their overcrowded camp in Lesbos last week where hundreds were forced to relocate to. Pictured: Migrants walk near a makeshift camp on Lesbos today

Families, children, young men and pregnant women have been left wandering aimlessly since a blaze ripped through the Moria camp on the night of September 8. Pictured: Migrants sit on top of an abandoned building on the island after being forced to move

Families, children, young men and pregnant women have been left wandering aimlessly since a blaze ripped through the Moria camp on the night of September 8. Pictured: Migrants sit on top of an abandoned building on the island after being forced to move

12,000 migrats have been forced to sleep rough in abandoned buildings, on roadsides (pictured) and even rooftops

12,000 migrats have been forced to sleep rough in abandoned buildings, on roadsides (pictured) and even rooftops

Authorities are erecting a new camp of white tents in haste near the eastern port-village of Panagiouda as exhaustion, hunger and fear set in, and locals look on with trepidation.

Many refugees refuse to go there, fearing they will just be forgotten inside while others are reluctantly making their way to the site.

The new camp ‘seems harsh, with its direct sunlight and no shade. But I’m entering tomorrow as I have no choice,’ said Pariba, an Afghan woman.

Inside the site, which is closed to the press, Malik, an Algerian migrant, told AFP by phone that he had settled there with his wife and five children.

‘There’s nothing in the camp, no shower, no mattresses. There is only one meal per day, and they give us a carton with six bottles of water,’ said the French teacher.

Authorities are erecting a new camp of white tents in haste near the eastern port-village of Panagiouda as exhaustion, hunger and fear set in, and locals look on with trepidation

Authorities are erecting a new camp of white tents in haste near the eastern port-village of Panagiouda as exhaustion, hunger and fear set in, and locals look on with trepidation

Two migrants clean themselves in an abandoned building near the Kara Tepe camp on Lesos. Litter is seen lying across the floor of the building

Two migrants clean themselves in an abandoned building near the Kara Tepe camp on Lesos. Litter is seen lying across the floor of the building

Migrants are pictured walking next to a fence near the makeshift camp on the island of Lesbos earlier today

Migrants are pictured walking next to a fence near the makeshift camp on the island of Lesbos earlier today

He added he was currently living alongside some 200 refugees from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and African countries.

In photos by one of his fellow camp members who wanted to remain anonymous, groups of migrants are seen waiting for food and water in scorching heat, some wearing masks.

Residents nearby were looking on with a wary eye, calling on European countries to lend a helping hand.

‘We’re afraid. Ninety percent of the people here are against the new camp, and all of us, we want them to leave the island,’ said Savvas Afentoulis, 70, sitting at a cafe in Panagiouda.

‘Greece can’t handle alone the situation, the EU has to find a solution.’

Afentoulis was quick to point out this was not always the case in Lesbos, the main port of entry for arrivals in EU member state Greece because of its close proximity to Turkey.

'We're afraid. Ninety percent of the people here are against the new camp, and all of us, we want them to leave the island,' said Savvas Afentoulis, 70, sitting at a cafe in Panagiouda. Pictured: Migrants sit at a table in a desolate building on Lesbos

‘We’re afraid. Ninety percent of the people here are against the new camp, and all of us, we want them to leave the island,’ said Savvas Afentoulis, 70, sitting at a cafe in Panagiouda. Pictured: Migrants sit at a table in a desolate building on Lesbos

Several European countries have signed up to a scheme to host unaccompanied minors from the destroyed Moria camp, but that's around 400 people, a drop in the ocean

Several European countries have signed up to a scheme to host unaccompanied minors from the destroyed Moria camp, but that’s around 400 people, a drop in the ocean

One window in an abandoned building on the island is seen illuminated with a migrant stood inside. Around 12,000 migrants have been moved to Lesbos since the Moria camp fire

One window in an abandoned building on the island is seen illuminated with a migrant stood inside. Around 12,000 migrants have been moved to Lesbos since the Moria camp fire

At the height of the migrant crisis that kicked off in 2015, Lesbos saw hundreds of thousands of people arrive, many of them Syrians fleeing war, and residents united in solidarity to help them.

‘But after, when Moria got full with people, they started to steal our sheep, and made damages,’ Afentoulis said.

Not far off, four young Somalis who dream of going to France or Germany hoped to be allowed into the new camp. They too were scared.

‘If we go there we are killed,’ said Ahmed, 18, showing the road where thousands of refugees are sleeping rough and then pointing to the nearby village.

Some of the migrants who have been forced to relocate to new accommodation on the Greek island of Lesbos are refusing to move, after a fire destroyed their overcrowded refugee camp. 

Greece has resettled hundreds of migrants in a temporary new tent facility and hopes to have moved all of them this week, government officials said on Monday.

Drone images show the extent of the damage caused to the Moria refugee camp when the fire broke out last Wednesday. 

An image taken with a drone shows an aerial view of the burnt-down Moria refugee camp on Lesbos island, Greece, on September 14

An image taken with a drone shows an aerial view of the burnt-down Moria refugee camp on Lesbos island, Greece, on September 14

A fire broke out in the overcrowded Moria Refugee Camp early last Wednesday, destroying large parts of some 13,000 refugees' accommodations

A fire broke out in the overcrowded Moria Refugee Camp early last Wednesday, destroying large parts of some 13,000 refugees’ accommodations

The Greek Ministry for Migration and Asylum is trying to persuade the migrants and refugees living on the streets, in the surrounding areas and even the rooftops and yards of nearby businesses, to move into a new facility

The Greek Ministry for Migration and Asylum is trying to persuade the migrants and refugees living on the streets, in the surrounding areas and even the rooftops and yards of nearby businesses, to move into a new facility

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Sunday that Greece would build a permanent new migrant reception centre to replace the Moria facility. Destroyed refugee camp pictured above

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Sunday that Greece would build a permanent new migrant reception centre to replace the Moria facility. Destroyed refugee camp pictured above 

More than 12,000 people, mostly refugees from Afghanistan, Africa and Syria, are without shelter and are having to sleep out in the open without proper sanitation after the fire tore through the migrant camp.

Greece is now registering the migrants and testing them for the COVID-19 disease before channeling them into the temporary tent camp at Kara Tepe, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said, though a police officer said some were refusing to move to the facility.

‘We expect that in the next three to four days all will be housed, a bit less than the (total number of) roughly 12,000 homeless,’ he told reporters.

The Greek Ministry for Migration and Asylum is trying to persuade the migrants and refugees living on the streets, in the surrounding areas and even the rooftops and yards of nearby businesses, to move into a new facility. 

Greece is now registering the migrants and testing them for the COVID-19 disease before channeling them into the temporary tent camp at Kara Tepe. Destruction of Moria refugee camp pictured above

Greece is now registering the migrants and testing them for the COVID-19 disease before channeling them into the temporary tent camp at Kara Tepe. Destruction of Moria refugee camp pictured above 

An image taken with a drone shows an aerial view of the burnt-down Moria refugee camp on Lesbos island, Greece, on Sunday

An image taken with a drone shows an aerial view of the burnt-down Moria refugee camp on Lesbos island, Greece, on Sunday 

Authorities have already moved some 400 minors from the island to the Greek mainland since the blaze for possible resettlement in other European countries

Authorities have already moved some 400 minors from the island to the Greek mainland since the blaze for possible resettlement in other European countries

About 600 migrants have so far been resettled in the temporary tent camp and 14 of them have tested positive for COVID-19, a government official said

About 600 migrants have so far been resettled in the temporary tent camp and 14 of them have tested positive for COVID-19, a government official said

n the chaos following last week's fire, authorities lost sight of 35 people who had tested positive, deepening fears of an outbreak among migrants sleeping closely together without proper sanitation

n the chaos following last week’s fire, authorities lost sight of 35 people who had tested positive, deepening fears of an outbreak among migrants sleeping closely together without proper sanitation

Authorities have already moved some 400 minors from the island to the Greek mainland since the blaze for possible resettlement in other European countries.

About 600 migrants have so far been resettled in the temporary tent camp and 14 of them have tested positive for COVID-19, a government official said.

In the chaos following last week’s fire, authorities lost sight of 35 people who had tested positive, deepening fears of an outbreak among migrants sleeping closely together without proper sanitation. 

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 last Friday

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 last Friday 

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, during the protest on Friday

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, during the protest on Friday 

Last Friday, thousands of migrants protested against a new refugee camp being built on the island. 

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.

But the Greek government announced it would not be ‘blackmailed’ by the protesters and has no plans to relocate them away from the island.

Fire almost completely destroyed Moria, the largest migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, leaving more than 12,000 asylum seekers without shelter

Fire almost completely destroyed Moria, the largest migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, leaving more than 12,000 asylum seekers without shelter

People walk along a perimeter wall on the outskirts of the Moria camp as flames burn in the background after a blaze broke out around 2am Wednesday, September 9

People walk along a perimeter wall on the outskirts of the Moria camp as flames burn in the background after a blaze broke out around 2am Wednesday, September 9

A man picks his way between the destroyed remains of tents inside the Moria camp, after the fire had burned out

A man picks his way between the destroyed remains of tents inside the Moria camp, after the fire had burned out

Petsas repeated on Monday the government’s suspicion that the fire was started deliberately ‘by migrants who wanted to blackmail the government to leave the island’. An investigation into the cause of the blaze is continuing.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Sunday that Greece would build a permanent new migrant reception centre to replace the Moria facility.

Germany’s Bild newspaper reported on Monday that Berlin is considering taking in thousands of refugees from Lesbos as a one-off gesture and also wants the Moria camp to be rebuilt and run by the European Union.

Several European countries have signed up to a scheme to host unaccompanied minors from the destroyed Moria camp.

But that’s around 400 people, a drop in the ocean.

Germany said Monday it was mulling taking in more migrants, possibly families with children.

In the meantime, Petsas, the Greek government spokesman, said the aim was to house everyone in the temporary camp within three to four days.

He added that all those entering the camp would be tested for coronavirus, as the threat of the pandemic remains ever present.

According to Greece’s migrations minister, Notis Mitarachi, some 200 migrants may be contaminated.

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