Greece targets to end Lesbos migrant crisis in one week


Greek authorities have now set up a new 3,000-capacity camp as it hoped thousands of asylum seekers left homeless by fires at Europe’s largest migrant camp could be rehoused within a week.

Asylum-seekers have been sleeping rough on Lesbos island since Wednesday, when about 11,000 fled the overcrowded Moria camp after it was gutted in an apparent arson attacks.

Authorities have set up a new camp at Kara Tepe, a few kilometres from the destroyed camp, regularly criticised by the UN and rights groups for overcrowding and dismal sanitary conditions.

Migration Minister NotisMitarachi said it would take five days to provide tents for all the homeless, and officials said asylum procedures would be accelerated.

But while around 500 migrants had entered Kara Tepe by Sunday afternoon, with more in queues outside, many others remained on the road of Lesbos, hesitant or outright refusing to go in.

“In the new camp, we are all going to die. It is really small. We don’t feel safe. We will remain here until another solution is found,” Nasrullah, a 22-year-old Afghani, told AFP.

Fears of a repeat of the Moria experience provoked clashes on Saturday, when some young men threw stones at riot police who responded with tear gas.

“The new camp, near the port of Mytilini, isn’t a solution,” Mytilini Mayor StratisKytelis told AFP. “The shame of Moria camp is over but the tension and the anguish with all those people in the middle of the road for five days now is ongoing,” he said.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Sunday: “This is a decent provisional structure that will give us the chance to handle the situation until the next stage.”

A new permanent reception and registration centre for asylum seekers would avoid “the problems of Moria”, he added.

“In Moria we could come and go but here, (the new camp) will be like a prison,” Zola, a Congolese woman with a five-month-old child, told AFP.

One Congolese migrant inside Kara Tepe also told AFP by text message that police would not allow them to leave.

Police said some Afghan migrants were trying to dissuade others from entering the new camp to access food and shelter.

AFP reporters said police had barred the Afghans from approaching the new camp and the migrants camping on the road, and police minister Michalis Chrisochoidis promised “sanctions” against anyone trying to block access.

Thousands of officers have been deployed “to protect the life and security” of both locals and asylum seekers, Chrisochoidis said.

“We will allow nobody to violate the rules of our country,” he added.

Greek authorities are stepping up efforts to gather refugees in the camp both to restore order on the island and to tamp down fears that the coronavirus could spread.

Just before the Moria camp burned down, 35 people tested positive for COVID-19 and were facing isolation measures.

On Sunday, authorities said 12 migrants among those entering the new camp tested positive for coronavirus.

“There might be 200 cases of coronavirus by now in those that fled Moria,” Mitarachi said Sunday.

The PM said Sunday there was no doubt “overactive” migrants trying to force the government to move them off Lesbos had started the fires in Moria. (Source: CNA)