ATHENS—A second night of fires destroyed what was left of Europe’s biggest refugee camp, on the Greek island of Lesbos, as Greek authorities scrambled to rehouse some 12,000 people who were living in the camp.
The fires at the notoriously overcrowded Moria camp on Lesbos were set by some of the migrants who were protesting against lockdown restrictions imposed at the camp after some had tested positive for the coronavirus, a spokesman for the Greek government said.
The revolt at the Moria refugee camp, the outbreak of Covid-19 among asylum seekers, and resistance by Greeks to new migrant housing are creating a near-intractable problem for Greek authorities, which are facing strong local resistance to migrant camps, both on islands such as Lesbos and on the Greek mainland. This week’s chaos at Moria is the result of years of neglect by Greek and European Union authorities of the rising tensions at overcrowded and squalid camps.
“There can be no surprise about what happened in Moria. It was a tinderbox, figuratively and literally,” said Nick Malkoutzis, editor of Greek analysis website Macropolis. “There are no easy choices for European politicians in addressing migration, but surely creating and sustaining such a dire place was the worst choice of all.”
The initial blaze in the small hours of Wednesday burned a large part of the camp, forcing thousands of asylum seekers to flee to the surrounding area. Further fires had burned the rest of the camp by Thursday. Thousands of asylum seekers, including many children, were left sleeping on roadsides and in fields around the island, with little food or water.