At least 13,000 asylum seekers are without housing after a massive fire gutted the notorious Moria migrant camp on the island of Lesbos, with some accusing migrants of setting the blaze.
The fire began at the camp on Tuesday night at around midnight and followed lockdown measures introduced after at least 35 residents tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus.
According to Secretary-General of Reception of Asylum Seekers of the Ministry of Migration Manos Logothetis, the damage to the camp was “almost entirely total”. According to a report from newspaper Proto Thema, the blaze was made even worse by strong winds.
Mich haben viele gefragt, wohin man für #Moria spenden kann. Momentan ist noch nicht klar, wer in den nächsten Wochen aktiv sein kann, aber wir sammeln hier Geld und schicken das dann schnellstmöglich Organisationen, die vor Ort helfen: https://t.co/ePYHukyQGh pic.twitter.com/rh6ETtrWsv
— Erik Marquardt (@ErikMarquardt) September 9, 2020
The cause of the fire is currently unknown, but video footage has emerged of a migrant enthusiastically singing “bye-bye Moria!” fueling speculation that arson was the cause of the blaze.
The president of a residents’ association described the incident as “arson”. He said locals are now concerned about the thousands of migrants wandering the area after the fire burned down the camp.
“Our fear and concerns were not something that stem from this arson attack, but they have been accumulating with all that has been going on for so many years, now,” he said.
Earlier reports also suggested that migrants had attacked firefighters who came to the camp in an attempt to get the blaze under control.
Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi has said that asylum seekers caused the fires in reaction to the quarantine imposed on the camp due to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. Some migrants, who spoke to the BBC, claimed the blaze emerged after a fight between residents and Greece forces at the camp.
Greek Landowner Discovers Makeshift Mosque Built by Illegal Migrants on Her Property https://t.co/QLYnO0LT4q
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) June 16, 2020
In reaction to the fire, the German government under Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for European Union countries to take in migrants from Greece.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stated: “What happened in Moria is a humanitarian disaster. We have to clarify as quickly as possible with the EU Commission and other helpful EU member states how we can support Greece.”
“This also includes the distribution of refugees among those willing to accept admission in the EU,” he added.
Other countries, such as Austria, have been more hesitant to endorse the redistribution of migrants from Greece. On Wednesday, Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer and Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said Austria would not be taking in any migrants from Greece.
Migrants Protest Greek Govt and Clash with Police After Tightening of Migration Rules https://t.co/xluuLZhxIB
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) February 5, 2020
“Our position remains unchanged,” Schallenberg said, and added: “But we will provide assistance on the ground and provide a million euros from the Foreign Disaster Fund.”
Thomas Waitz, a member of the European Parliament for the Austrian Greens, which make up part of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s coalition government, slammed the response, saying: “Austria must now take in fleeing residents from Moria who are once again facing having nothing after the fire.”
Waitz went on to compare Kurz’s centre-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) to the populist anti-mass migration Freedom Party (FPÖ).