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Thousands flee after fire started in Greek migrant camp

Police believe the fire was set deliberately by people inside the camp.

Image: Petros Giannakouris/AP

THOUSANDS OF MIGRANTS have fled one of Greece’s main camps on the island of Lesbos after apparently setting fire to the facility, police said.

“Between 3,000 and 4,000 migrants have fled the camp of Moria” because of the fire, a police source told AFP.

He said there was “no doubt” that the fire had been set on purpose by those inside.

“The situation is difficult because of the wind,” which was fanning the flames, the officer added.

It was not immediately clear how extensive the fire in the camp was.

Some 150 minors housed at the camp were evacuated to a children’s village on the island, he said.

Conditions

There are now over 60,000 refugees and migrants in Greece, most of them seeking to travel to Germany and other affluent EU countries.

But they are unable to do so after several eastern European and Balkan states shut their borders earlier this year.

Human rights groups have repeatedly criticised the condition of Greek migrant camps, pointing to overcrowding and unsanitary living conditions.

The situation is particularly acute on Lesbos and other eastern Aegean islands facing Turkey, where most of the migrants land and are held for registration.

The procedure is part of an EU-Turkey deal designed to limit the flow of refugees and migrants to Greece’s shores.

According to government data, there are over 13,000 people on five islands in facilities built to house fewer than 8,000.

Police presence

On Lesbos itself there are in excess of 5,600 people, over 2,000 more than the nominal capacity of the camps.

Brawls are common in the island camps, with many desperate to avoid being returned to Turkey or their home countries after spending a small fortune and risking their lives trying to escape poverty and persecution.

Earlier today, tension rose in Moria owing to a rumour that migrants were about to be deported en masse to Turkey, state agency ANA reported.

But a strong police presence at the camp had initially calmed tempers, the officer said.

Another two fires broke out in the olive groves near the camp of Moria, but were brought under control before the third fire erupted at the camp.

- © AFP 2016.

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