NEWS

Scramble to respond to Lesvos crisis amid arson probe 

TANIA GEORGIOPOULOU, YIANNIS SOULIOTIS, ANTHI PAZIANOU

TAGS: Migration, Fire, EU

As officials scrambled on Thursday to rehouse thousands of migrants left homeless after a series of three fires that destroyed the Moria reception center on Lesvos, authorities investigating the cause of the blazes are honing in on a group of 30 young Afghan men, Kathimerini understands. 

According to officers with knowledge of the investigation, the suspects are all young men who traveled to Greece without their families and had been linked to instances of drug dealing and extortion at the camp. They were not among the 35 migrants who tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week and who remain at large.

However, they are believed to have taken advantage of the protests of the infected migrants on Tuesday evening to provoke rioting and set the fires. Firefighters who were at the scene that night said they witnessed migrants throwing flammable liquid onto the flames. 

Meanwhile, as efforts to respond to the new humanitarian crisis intensify, the government appears to be considering the creation of a new center on the same site. 

The destruction of the Moria camp left some 13,000 people on the street, with many seeking shelter on roadsides and in cemeteries as officials and aid workers started distributing tents and food and water. 

A ferry remained docked at the island but plans to transfer around 1,000 people onto it were put off as tensions remained high on Thursday, with residents setting up road blockades in a bid to stop authorities from accessing the site at Moria. 

The government is also concerned about the vehement opposition of local residents, and authorities, to the creation of a new camp on the island.

More riot police officers were dispatched to the island to stop migrants from moving to the island’s main town and to guard the area as efforts get under way to create a temporary reception center. 

Another concern is that the 35 camp residents who earlier this week had tested positive for Covid-19 and had been due to be transferred to a separate facility are missing. On Wednesday, nine of the 35 were found, but they too disappeared in the chaos after the second fire.

The National Organization for Public Health (EODY) said it had been in contact with the World Health Organization and that medical staff will be dispatched to the island to help respond to the crisis.  

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