Greece: 12,000 people on the street on Lesbos following devastating Moria fire

Several fires erupted in the Moria reception centre on Lesbos last night, leaving the camp almost entirely destroyed, and forcing around 12,000 men, women and children to evacuate the site with no alternative place to stay.

Our teams saw the fire spread across Moria and rage all night long. The whole place was engulfed in flames. We saw an exodus of people fleeing from a burning hell with nowhere to go. Children are scared and parents in shock. We are relieved that there seem to be no victims and we are working now to address the immediate needs” says Marco Sandrone, MSF field coordinator in Lesbos.

Almost five years of trapping people in these conditions has led to tension and despair which has only increased over the last five months due to restricted movements in the camp, hastily justified as a public health measure amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the recent confirmation of positive cases of COVID-19 within the camp's residents, the increasing restrictions to the population have made the situation unbearable.

“As a medical humanitarian organisation, MSF know that if you do not have the trust and the understanding of your population you can’t control an outbreak. How can state authorities keep 12,000 people tightly trapped in inhumane conditions and tell them that they have to respect physical distancing? They have to queue even to receive some food everyday,” says Sandrone.

“There is no question as to the cause of this fire: the years-long orchestration of human suffering and violence produced by European and Greek migration policies are to blame.”

The fire has destroyed the Dutch-donated COVID-19 medical facility and has interrupted all the medical services available for the refugee population, including the MSF pediatric clinic.

MSF has been warning about conditions in the camp for years and most recently has been pushing the Greek health and migration authorities to implement an adequate COVID-19 response plan for Moria. However, the Greek authorities failed to put such a response in place. The EU and other EU member states have not stepped up to their responsibility to resolve this situation either.

MSF calls on the Greek authorities to immediately adopt an emergency response plan and to evacuate all these people to a safe place on the mainland or to other European countries. MSF is ready to provide the support that is needed during the emergency response. 

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This is the press room for MSF UK - the UK office of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare. MSF offers assistance to people based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation.

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