Children have been moved from the Moria camp to another facility after clashes and a huge fire at the camp. Amnesty International welcome the move, but say a number of migrants were forced to “sleep rough” and calls on the Greek authorities “to provide protection and shelter”.
Amnesty calls for action in Greece after fire at refugee camp
Greek migrant camp torched as UN warns of deadly year / Athens (Greece) – 20 September 2016 13:35 – AFP (Will VASSILOPOULOS) / WRAGreek police arrested nine migrants after clashes and a huge fire at an asylum seekers’ camp, as the UN warned Tuesday that 2016 could be the deadliest year yet for refugees trying to reach Europe.Some 5,000 migrants fled Monday when dozens of tents and shelters at the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos were torched, in a blaze sparked when migrants of different nationalities got into a brawl.The people arrested — including Afghans, Iraqis as well as one national each from Senegal, Syria and Cameroon — were taken into custody over the violence that led to the fire, a police source said. “Calm has returned to the (island), but the situation is still changing,” the source said, adding 40 riot police had been sent to Lesbos. The Moria unrest underscored the ongoing urgency of Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II as the UN refugee agency warned fatalities in the Mediterranean could outstrip last year’s total of almost 4,000. Billionaire investor George Soros also waded into the fray Tuesday by saying he was investing $500 million in migrant start-ups.- ‘I’ve nothing left’ -Greek police said the Moria fire destroyed 60 pre-fabricated structures, 100 tents and three shipping containers that housed camp services.”My tent burned down. I’ve nothing left but the clothes on my back,” Hamid, a young Iranian, told AFP. Greek media showed images of women fleeing with babies in their arms although no injuries were reported.A ministerial source said the camp would be rebuilt as soon as possible but in the meantime authorities were placing families in another camp on Lesbos, where there are in excess of 5,600 people, over 2,000 above nominal capacity.Brawls are common among people desperate to avoid being returned to Turkey or their home countries after spending a small fortune and risking their lives trying to escape poverty and persecution.”It is not surprising,” said Roland Schoenbauer, a UNHCR representative in Greece, pointing to a “lack of security” at the camp.He reiterated UNHCR’s calls for the swift transfer of some migrants on the Greek islands to mainland Europe, saying the island camps had some 6,000 more people to find places for than capacity allowed.Greece overall currently hosts more than 60,000 refugees and migrants, most looking to travel to Germany and other affluent EU countries.But they are unable to do so after several eastern European and Balkan states shut their borders earlier this year.Tuesday, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said more than 300,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year.Although that number is well down on 520,000 for the first nine months of last year, the UNHCR said fatality rates had risen.A spokesman said 2016 is set to be “the deadliest year on record in the Mediterranean Sea” with 3,211 migrants reported dead or missing to date — compared with 3,771 across 2015.- ‘Gaps’ in EU response -Although a March accord provides for Turkey taking back migrants who do not apply for asylum or have a claim rejected, claimants have overwhelmed Greek asylum services in the absence of beefed up administrative staffing promised by Brussels.”The fire at Moria is symbolic of the gaps in the European response to the refugee crisis,” said Panos Navrozidis, Greece director of the International Rescue Committee. To date, authorities say just 502 people have been returned to Turkey while arrivals continue at a rate of around 100 per day. The Moria blaze came amid a UN summit to roll out a global response to the crisis.The summit saw world governments adopt a non-binding political declaration pledging to uphold the rights of a record 65 million refugees and help them resettle.Soros meanwhile said governments had to play “the leading role” but in announcing his cash pledge told the Wall Street Journal that “harnessing the power of the private sector is also critical.” “Migrants are often forced into lives of idle despair, while host countries fail to reap the proven benefit that greater integration could bring,” said Soros, lamenting a “collective failure to develop and implement effective policies to handle the increased flow.”bur-cb-nl-bs/cw/mt