MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The devastating fire that burnt down the largest migrant camp on the island of Lesbos is a direct result of Europe’s and Greece’s migration policies that perpetuated sufferings of these people, the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) field coordinator in Lesbos said.
A huge blaze destroyed the overcrowded Moria facility in the early hours of Wednesday, leaving some 12,000 migrants without shelter. The fire broke out on the heels of reports about 35 camp residents having been diagnosed with COVID-19. According to Greek media, the cause of the fire could have been arson.
“There is no question as to the cause of this fire: it is the years-long orchestration of human suffering and violence produced by European and Greek migration policies that are to blame,” Marco Sandrone said.
Asked whether he believes that the situation could repeat itself in other camps, Sandrone found it difficult to make any projections, but argued that “what has happened in Moria is a testimony to the neglect and failure of the Greek governance.”
“MSF has been pushing for weeks the Greek health and migration authorities to set up an adequate COVID-19 response plan for Moria … The Greek authorities failed to put such a response in place, the EU and other EU member states rejected responsibility and did close to nothing to resolve this situation,” he said.
The Greek authorities, he went on, should immediately adopt an emergency response plan and evacuate Moria camp residents to a safe place either on the mainland or in other EU countries. MSF stands ready to assist.
“We can only hope the same system of inhumane containment will not be reborn from the ashes of Moria,” the official stated.
“The fire forced to interrupt all the medical services available for the refugee population, including the MSF pediatric clinic. Luckily, the clinic has not been burnt, our teams have spent the night trying to protect the clinic from the fire. Nonetheless, our services have been temporarily interrupted and we are working to resume as soon as possible,” Marco Sandrone added.
Sandrone specified that the fire left no fatalities, but rendered camp residents homeless.
“The fire forced about 12,000 men, women, and children to evacuate [from] the site with no alternative place to stay … All people have moved towards Mytilini town but have been blocked just beyond the Kara Tepe camp. Those people are now in the street with nowhere to go and many are starting to hide in the hills and disperse,” he said.
According to the MSF coordinator, evacuation of migrants to a safe place must now be a priority for local authorities, as the camp was burnt down “almost entirely.”
Greece has long been struggling to handle the inflow of migrants and refugees from Turkey, resulting in overcrowded camps that are conducive to fire hazards. The EU remains split over sharing burden of countries of first arrival.