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Greek government to accelerate refugee removals after deadly fire at migrant camp

Tuesday, 1 October, 2019 - 13:26

The Greek authorities began on Monday to accelerate the transfer of asylum seekers from the saturated refugee camps of the Aegean Islands to mainland Greece after the serious riots on Sunday, after which a woman died in a fire on the island of Lesbos. 

The fire originated inside one of the shipping containers in which Greek authorities house migrants and asylum seekers. The Ministry of Health has confirmed the death of one woman and 17 others injured.

After the fires, a group of refugees confronted police officers and firefighters by throwing stones and sticks at which the police responded with tear gas and stun grenades. 

Doctors Without Borders reported that they attended to 21 people in their clinic because of the panic that caused the fire and injuries from clashes with the police.

The camp, where migrants are often housed in freight containers converted into shelters, hosts around 13,000 people while the facilities were only meant to hold 3,000 people. Greece currently has 70,000 migrants, mainly Syrian refugees who have fled their country since 2015 and risked crossing from neighbouring Turkish shores.

Marco Sandrone, a field officer with Médecins Sans Frontières told the Guardian that “No one can call the fire and these deaths an accident. This tragedy is the direct result of a brutal policy that is trapping 13,000 people in a camp made for 3,000.

“European and Greek authorities who continue to contain these people in these conditions have a responsibility in the repetition of these dramatic episodes. It is high time to stop the EU-Turkey deal and this inhumane policy of containment. People must be urgently evacuated out of the hell that Moria has become.”

After an emergency meeting on Monday, the Greek Cabinet said the government wanted to return 10,000 migrants to Turkey by the end of 2020, instead of the approximately 1,800 in four and a half years that the previous leftist government had committed to. Such returns are made possible by the EU-Turkey agreement concluded in March 2016.

Among other measures announced, the Council of Ministers has planned the strengthening of patrols in the Aegean Sea to stop arrivals.


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