Moria (Greece) (AFP) – At least one migrant died on Sunday after a fire broke out in Moria, the over-crowded refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, Greece’s Health Ministry said.
Police were firing tear gas to control crowds who started rioting after the fire ignited inside the camp, according to an AFP correspondent.
Additional officers were sent from Athens in C-130 army airplanes in a bid to contain the situation.
The fire has since been extinguished, but scuffles broke out as migrants tried to enter the camp’s detention centre, Athens News Agency reported.
Migrants said they were angry over the time it took for the fire brigade to arrive, claiming the long delay had led to the death of a woman and two children.
“We found two children completely charred and a woman dead. We gave the children covered in blankets to the fire brigade”, Fedouz, a 15-year-old migrant from Afghanistan told AFP.
An AFP correspondent saw two bodies, one of which was taken to Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
The organisation also put the toll at one dead.
Athens News Agency reported that a burned body had been taken to the hospital of Mytilini, the island’s main town.
The camp, where migrants are often housed in cargo containers converted into shelters, hosts around 13,000 people, while its facilities are for 3,000 people.
The camp has become like a small town with UN refugee agency tents for around 8,000 people sprawling into the olive fields of nearby Moria village.
Greece is hosting some 70,000 mostly Syrian refugees and migrants who have fled their countries since 2015, and crossed over from neighbouring Turkey.
Under an agreement reached with the European Union in 2016, Turkey has made greater efforts to limit departures towards the five Greek islands closest to its shores.
But the number of arrivals has been steadily climbing in recent months causing a dangerous burden in the camps of the islands that are in the forefront of the migrant influx.