Afghan woman found dead after deadly fire in Greek reception centre

The remains of an Afghan irregular migrant were found following a deadly fire that broke out at the overcrowded Moria camp on the Greek Island of Lesbos on 29 September 2019. The fire started inside a container used to house irregular migrants in Moria reception centre, and was eventually extinguished by plane.

Authorities say the deadly fire prompted rioting by residents.  “A charred body was found, causing foreign [migrants] to rebel,” said Lefteris Economou, Greece’s deputy minister for citizen protection. “Stones and other objects were hurled, damaging three fire engines and slightly injuring four policemen and a fireman.”

Overall, 19 people including four children were injured, most of them in the clashes. A separate report from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said a child died with the Afghan woman.

“The situation was totally out of control,” said the local police chief, Vasillis Rodopoulos, describing the melee sparked by the fire. “Their behaviour was very aggressive, they wouldn’t let the fire engines pass to put out the blaze, and for the first time they were shouting: kill police.”

NGO Médecins Sans Frontières said the riot was a reflection of growing frustration among camp residents. “This tragedy is the direct result of a brutal policy that is trapping 13,000 people in a camp made for 3,000,” said Marco Sandrone, a field officer with MSF.

Greece is currently hosting 85,000 irregular migrants, most of whom crossed over from Turkey since 2015. The Greek government announced their intention to return 10,000 migrants to Turkey by the end of 2020, following a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, 1 October 2019.

The move is a sign of shifting policies in the country, as conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis takes a strong stance to the migrant situation in Greece. In a statement, the Athens government said the 10,000 would be an increase from the “1,805 returned in the 4.5 years under the previous (left-wing) Syriza government.”

TMP – 10/10/2019

Photo credit: Nicolas Economou / Shutterstock

Photo caption: Moria camp currently houses 13,000 people, more than 4 times its capacity of 3,000.