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Moria refugees forced to sleep rough on Lesbos streets with little food or water

THOUSANDS of refugees slept on the street in Lesbos with little food or water for a second night in a row after fires razed Moria camp to the ground. 

Police continued to blockade roads between the camp to the island’s main city of Mytilene, fencing in almost 13,000 refugees who lost the little they had in the huge blaze. 

More fires broke out at Europe’s largest refugee camp on Wednesday night, destroying the few tents that had survived the first blaze the previous night. 

During the night, riot police pushed back groups attempting to walk to Mytilene with tear gas and by firing bullets into the air. 

Isaac, an asylum-seeker from Ghana who slept on the road near Moria, described traumatic scenes: “In the night there was tear gas and warning shots, women were crying, children were crying, babies were crying. It was a very bad situation.”

Speaking to the Morning Star over the phone yesterday afternoon, Isaac said he had not been provided with any food or water that day. 

“It’s very bad, especially for the women, it’s very dangerous for them, because some people have menstruation and they cannot change. There are no toilet facilities – we all go to the toilet in the bush.” 

Isaac said that no-one has given them any information, with the only news he has received being from reading the BBC. 

Yesterday the International Organisation for Migration in Greece reported that 406 unaccompanied minors had been taken by plane from Lesbos to the mainland. 

Human rights groups have urged the Greek government to apply the same measures for other vulnerable groups on the island. 

However in a meeting between the local municipality on Lesbos and aid groups on Wednesday morning, officials said that refugees would not be transferred to the mainland for another six months. 

Speaking at a separate press conference government spokesperson Stelios Petsas argued that only unaccompanied minors will leave the island and accused refugees of “not being respectful of the country that is hosting them.

“They thought that if they set fire to Moria they would leave the island indiscriminately. Whatever those who set the fires had in mind, they can forget it,” he continued.

“They are not going to leave because of the fire, except the unaccompanied minors who have already been transferred.” 

Greece researcher for Human Rights Watch Eva Cosse said this was “totally unacceptable” and “very worrying.” 

“We have seen how winter has affected refugees,” she told the Morning Star. “Lesbos has a snowy winter and if people are living in tents with no decent living conditions in combination with Covid it’s likely it will be deadly, as it has been in previous years – people dying either because of the cold or because of explosions by heating devices. 

“So we really hope that history won’t repeat itself and that the government will do the right thing.”

Ms Cosse added that the authorities’ threats were not possible in practice, as refugees identified as being vulnerable have to be transferred to the mainland. 

Plans for emergency accommodation still remained unclear today. Greece’s migration ministry said a ferry had been sent to accommodate vulnerable families. 

Plans to set up tents at different locations on the island met fierce opposition by locals who blocked roads to prevent authorities erecting shelters.

The events this week have rekindled tensions among some of the island’s residents, last seen in March this year when NGO workers were attacked by far-right groups. 

Today Doctors without Borders (MSF) reported that locals had blocked NGO workers from accessing a medical centre near the camp. 

On the night of the fire, reports also emerged of refugees being blocked from entering a nearby village by its residents. 

Reports also emerged today of questionable actions by Greek police who allegedly held detainees in Moria’s detention centre –where rejected asylum-seekers facing deportation are locked up –until the “last minute.” 

Ali* said his friends in the prison were held there by officers “as late as they could.” 

“This friend told me if it would take just a few minutes, all of them would die,” he said. “The prisoners have been released, but their phones, clothes and everything has burned.”

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