Greek police have fired tear gas during protests by refugees and migrants seeking to leave the island of Lesbos after being homeless with a blast in Europe’s largest refugee camp.
Under a hot sun on Saturday, protesters chanted “Freedom” and “No Camp” on Saturday, as authorities stepped up efforts to establish temporary housing for them in another part of Lesbos.
More than 12,000 people have been sleeping untimely since Wednesday when flames made the Moriya camp infamous. After falling prey to Moriya, men, women and children were found sleeping in shelters made of reed stalks, blankets and salvage tents on Saturday morning.
Some protesters gave handwritten signs with messages including “We don’t want to go to hell like Moria again” and “Can you hear us Mrs. Merkel?” In an appeal to the German Chancellor.
When some protesters attempted to demolish the road leading to the island’s main city of Mytilene, police fired tear gas shells, which the police blocked while work was on at the new tent settlement. The confrontation was short-lived.
Al Jazeera’s John Cyropoulos, reporting from a tent city that had sprung up on the side of a highway over Lesbos, said that Moria’s former camp dwellers “are unwilling to move to yet another camp situation”.
“They all say they want to move to mainland Greece and the rest of Europe; they are tired of living in temporary accommodation under the tarpaulin.”
Leaving the island will require bending EU rules, under which refugees arriving from Greece to the islands of Greece must remain there until they are granted refugee status or repatriated to Turkey. Authorities have said none of the camp’s residents – except 406 unconscious teenagers and children – will be allowed to leave the island. The blockade minors were sent to the Greek mainland on Wednesday and many European countries said they would take some of them.
Other countries have promised assistance for a new camp under construction in Lesbo, which wants neither residents nor former residents of Moria.
“All around us, we hear babies crying, hungry,” Psaropoulos said. “We are seeing children who are playing with sticks on the street or whatever they can find, we are seeing very frustrated adults, very tired looking individuals disenchanted with the asylum process Seem unable to make timely decisions, ”she added.
“Some people have been here for two years, they are tired of waiting.”
The camp fire, which was more than four times the number of people it was believed to be, has returned the spotlight to the migration crisis facing the European Union, which is struggling to find a response beyond temporary reforms.
Greek authorities have denied any major transfers to the island, located a few miles from the Turkish coast, resentful of suffering the brunt of the crisis, despite growing hostility from residents.
But officials said they were determined to provide shelter and proper sanitation and prevent humanitarian mayhem.
|Moriah tragedy: sought to allow abandoned refugees to leave|
Migration Minister Notice Mitrachi said, “To this day, asylum seekers will be coming to the tents, under safe conditions.”
The need to bring the situation under control has been made more urgent by the fact that authorities have lost track of the 35 camp residents who tested positive for coronavirus earlier this week.
Health officials have promised to conduct rapid testing at the entrance to the new camp, ready with the quarantine unit for any positive tests.
On Friday, 200,000 rapid-detection kits for the virus were flown to the island for a comprehensive test drive that would include asylum seekers and islanders.
The World Health Organization said that Greece had asked for the deployment of an emergency medical team. Two such teams, one from Belgium and one from Norway, were scheduled to arrive on Saturday and Monday.
Nevertheless, the anomalous conditions endured by former Moriya residents in the fields and streets of Lesbos have caused deep alarm.
According to Sky Television, Matina Pangee, president of the doctors of Athens and Piraeus Hospital, said, “It’s a health bomb. These people don’t even have access to water these days, they can’t even wash their hands.”
Many of the asylum seekers in Moria have described their lives there, which was worse than their long, often painful journey that they hoped would lead to a better life in Europe.
Human Rights Watch said the Moria fire “highlights the failure of the ‘hotspot approach’ of the European Union … which has led to the participation of thousands of people on the Greek islands”.
“The group’s leaders must share responsibility for the reception and support of asylum seekers. In addition, Greek authorities must ensure that respect for human rights is at the heart of the response to this fire,” said Eva Coss of the rights group Said in a statement.