Greece demands EU help to house refugees displaced by overcrowded migrant camp fire

Greece’s Prime Minister is demanding the European Union take greater responsibility for managing migration, as authorities scramble to find new accommodation for 12,000 people left homeless after fire gutted an overcrowded camp.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis blamed some residents at the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos for trying to blackmail his Government by deliberately setting the fires that destroyed the camp last week.

But he said this could be an opportunity to improve how the EU handles a key challenge.

“It [the burning of Moria] was a tragedy. These images were bad,” Mr Mitsotakis said.

“It was a warning bell to all to become sensitised. Europe cannot afford a second failure on the migration issue.”

Human rights activists have criticised the squalor at the Moria refugee camp, which was built to house 2,750 but became overcrowded with around 12,500 refugees and asylum-seekers who fled across the sea from Turkey.

Since the fires, which came after the camp faced a coronavirus lockdown, thousands of people have camped outside and on highways near Moria, under police guard.

Voluntary relocation to new camp in coming days

At sunrise you view a smoking migrant camp nestled between a mountain range.
The army is setting up temporary accommodation while the new camp is being built.(AP: Panagiotis Balaskas)

Many have protested the Greek Government for refusing to allow the homeless migrants to leave Lesbos for the mainland.

Residents are also unhappy their island is being used as a dumping ground for migrants.

Mr Mitsotakis said he has spoken to French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the reallocation of at least some migrants from Moria, but he said there will be a new, permanent refugee camp on Lesbos.

The Greek army has been setting up tents at a former artillery range, about four kilometres from the old camp.

Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis said an estimated 1,000 Moria residents would be relocated to the new tent city.

“At the moment, it’s happening on a voluntary basis,” Mr Mitarakis said.

Mr Mitarakis said those entering the new camp would undergo rapid testing for coronavirus, and that five new cases have been found so far.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis expressed solidarity with the migrants on Lesbos and called for a dignified welcome for them.

The Pope visited the Moria camp in 2016, and took 12 Syrian refugees with him when he returned to Rome.