Thousands of asylum seekers have been left homeless after two large fires ripped through the Moria refugee and migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesvos on consecutive nights.
The devastating fires on Tuesday and Wednesday have left well over 12,000 people out in the open after the double blazes resulted in heavy damage to the site, which houses the largest migrant camp in Europe.
According to government data, the overcrowded camp had been accommodating in excess of 12,000 people, well above its capacity of 2,757.
A pregnant mother of three from Pakistan was among those coming to terms with the disaster. She said there are now too many problems at the Moria camp, and she worries about raising her children after losing everything.
Astrid Castelein, head of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)’s Lesvos sub-office, described the incident as one of the worst she has seen in several years, and detailed the horrifying extent of the damage.
“I am here in front of the Moria reception and identification center, which has burned during the whole night. Working here since 2016, this is the worst fire incident that I have ever seen, as all the containers, working areas, areas for minors have burned. Asylum seekers and refugees are spread all over around Moria,” said Castelein.
According to Greece’s Ministry of Migration and Asylum, a shipping company has offered one large vessel, while two Greek Navy ships were set to sail to the island on Thursday to temporarily shelter close to 10,000 homeless refugees, while another 3,500 people affected by the fire will be placed in temporary tents.
Aside from the resettlement of homeless refugees, the potential spread of COVID-19 is also a major worry, after the first confirmed case at Moria was detected a week ago. Prior to the fire, 35 refugees in the camp had tested positive for the virus and were placed under quarantine. The quick evacuation during the fires have meant that authorities have lost track of some of the affected patients.
The National Public Health Organization of Greece said it will work with the World Health Organization to increase the number of medical workers in order to protect the health of the refugees.
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