Rights group: Blame overcrowding for Greece migrant camp blaze

Deadly fire is the result of ‘trapping 13,000 people in a space meant for 3,000’, medical charity says.

Moria migrant refugee camp in Greece Lesbos Lesvos
Moria camp hosts approximately 13,000 people but has facilities for just 3,000. [Ihab Abassi via Reuters]

The fire at an overcrowded migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos that killed at least one woman is “the direct result of trapping 13,000 people in a space meant for 3,000”, according to medical charity group Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF).

The blaze on Sunday triggered riots by angry residents at the Moria camp who said authorities took too long to respond.

“No one can call this an accident,” MSF said on Twitter.

Greek media reported that a burned blanket possibly containing the charred remains of a baby had been found next to the woman. Earlier police sources said a mother and her child had died.

Another 17 injured migrants, including two children, were transferred to a hospital on the island at Mytilene, the health ministry said on Monday.

Afghan residents of the camp said three people died after the fire spread to six or seven containers used to house the migrants.

“We found two children completely charred and a woman dead. We gave the children covered in blankets to the fire brigade,” Fedouz, 15, told AFP news agency whose correspondent saw two bodies, one surrounded by weeping family members.

In a statement, police said the riots occurred after two separate fires broke out within 20 minutes – the first outside and the second inside the camp.

Additional officers were sent from Athens in a bid to contain the situation, although local police sources said calm had returned to the camp by 23:00 GMT.

“Thousands of migrants must be transferred to the mainland as soon as possible,” Stratos Kytelis, the mayor of Lesbos’ capital Mytilini, told Skai TV. “It cannot continue like this.”

Moria camp hosts approximately 13,000 people but has facilities for just 3,000.


It has become like a small town with UNHCR tents for approximately 8,000 people sprawling into the olive fields of nearby Moria village. The rest are housed in containers.

Greece is hosting some 70,000 refugees and migrants, mostly from Syria, who have fled their countries since 2015 and crossed over from neighbouring Turkey.

Under an agreement reached with the European Union in 2016, Turkey has made greater efforts to limit departures towards the five Greek islands closest to its shores.

But the number of arrivals has been steadily climbing in recent months.

The Greek government said on Sunday it planned to discuss a new asylum draft law to deal with the fresh migrant crisis on Monday.

Minister of State George Gerapetritis said in an interview with Skai TV on Sunday that migrants should be sent to camps with humane conditions, admitting that existing ones were not able to deal with the increase in migrants.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies