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A MASSIVE fire has destroyed most of Moria camp on Lesbos, forcing thousands of refugees to sleep on the streets without shelter, water or food.
Greek authorities imposed a state of emergency following a meeting this morning and approved plans to evacuate around 400 unaccompanied children to the mainland.
Reports suggest that the fire was caused by a number of smaller blazes around the perimeter of Europe’s largest refugee camp which rapidly spread due to strong winds.
Thousands fleeing the fire were prevented from reaching Lesbos’s main city of Mytilini by riot police.
Workers from non-govermment organisations (NGOs) told the Morning Star that police had initially prevented volunteers from giving water, food and blankets to the stranded refugees.
“It’s absolutely terrifying what’s going on right now,” said Refocus Media Labs co-founder Douglas Herman. “[The police] are not allowing NGOs to provide blankets or food or water or anything.
“We don’t know if they’re going to transport these people to the football stadium here, to the port, but they can’t go back into this place that’s been destroyed.”
Local NGO Stand by Me Lesbos claimed that some locals attacked refugees and tried to stop them from passing through a nearby village.
The cause of the fire has not yet been confirmed, however one of the blazes is said to have started after a group of refugees confronted police at the camp’s Covid-19 quarantine area.
The group allegedly believed that the Greek authorities had been lying about positive cases of Covid-19 in the camp in order to impose further restrictions.
Officers are said to have fired tear gas at the group who responded by lighting a fire to mitigate the effects of the gas.
Moria was put into total lockdown last week after authorities recorded the first positive cases of Covid-19. There have since been 35 confirmed cases.
A few days later Greece’s Minister of Migration confirmed plans to turn Moria into a closed controlled camp, signing a contract with a construction firm to start preparatory work.
It follows six months of partial lockdown at the camp, with restrictions continually extended since April, despite Covid-19 measures being lifted across the rest of the country.
Mr Hurman said that refugees trapped in Moria had been “absolutely fed up” with the situation.
At midday on Wednesday NGOs were still blocked from giving aid despite temperatures soaring to 30 degrees, while three special units of riot police landed on the island from Athens.
Legal Centre Lesvos said that the government’s immediate dispatch of security forces before offering aid "continues their policy of framing migrants as a question of public order and prioritising their securitisation as opposed to the provision of urgent assistance."
“This fire is a visceral manifestation of European policies, which have for years tolerated the containment of migrants in dangerous, overcrowded and insecure conditions,” said Amelia Cooper of the legal NGO group.
“Residents of Moria camp, and migrants in hotspots across Europe, are in situations of manufactured and state-sanctioned vulnerability. This fire was not an accident, it was an inevitability.”
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