“ATHENS, Greece – The Greek government on Tuesday said that it would send ships to Lesbos to act as temporary accommodation for refugees after devastating fire ripped through the Moria refugee ‘hotspot’ on the Greek island late on Monday.Rami Alam, an Egyptian migrant in the camp, said that the fire was started on purpose and that the perpetrators intended to repeat the act if they were not moved from the camp onto the mainland.
‘I heard many [migrants] speaking today who said ‘this is just the beginning’,’ he told MEE by telephone. ‘They said ‘we will burn it again if we must stay here’. They want to leave, they want to go to Europe. They want Europe to have a solution for the refugees. I’m so worried. I know they will do it again.’
‘No it wasn’t an accident. Definitely not, it was on purpose. If any fights happen again they will do it again, they will burn the fields and the camp.’
Ali Hassan, a migrant from Pakistan, also told MEE by telephone last night that he believed the fire was deliberate. ‘Some people started lighting fires with lighters. First the small tents, then the big tents and then the fire spread. Now, I think only 25 percent to 30 percent of the camp has not been burnt down.’
‘There was a lot of damage, the fire was very big,’ said Alam. ‘Afghans, Iraqis, Syrians, Africans lost their tents and their things. Luckily my tent was ok, but many were destroyed.’
The fire began after a peaceful protest by Syrians, Iraqis and African migrants and refugees got out of hand and quickly descended into inter-ethnic violence between refugees and migrants.
‘A police captain tried to calm the crowd,’ said Hassan. ‘He tried to explain to the refugees that he didn’t want them to be there either but that he couldn’t do anything.’
‘Police used tear gas, but then they left the camp when they couldn’t stop the fighting.’
The situation in the refugee camp, which aid groups have condemned as unsafe and overcrowded, has been deteriorating since an EU/Turkey deal prevented refugees who arrive on the Greek islands after 20 March from leaving.
The deal originally envisioned that refugees whose asylum claims were rejected would be returned to Turkey but the deal has stalled due to a shortage of asylum officials and concern over whether Turkey is a safe third country for refugees.”