- A fire at the Moria refugee camp in Greece has left 12,000 people homeless. The fire started after an AVM machine blocked the Kovid shipwreck.
- The whole camp relied on the bank machine for money. Food, soap and baby supplies were scarce.
- The youths lit a small fire in protest but went out of control.
- Sources at the scene told Insider how the entire camp was set on fire within a few hours.
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After 10pm on Tuesday, September 8, a demonstration at the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos took a terrible turn, with a handful of small fires burning by desperate protesters spreading rapidly into the crowded area and completely engulfing it.
The next morning, when the fires broke out, most of the camp was destroyed. About 12,000 people were left homeless.
It started by removing access to the ATM machine where the entire camp relied on cash.
Kovid arrives, cutting off access to the bank machine
More fires were reported Wednesday night in the rest of the site. Greek officials provided shelter for the refugees that day. Meanwhile, clashes and protests erupted as refugees were asked to move out of Lesbos and frustrated residents tried to stop them from building new homes.
Mohammad Akbar, a 42-year-old Afghan father of three, said the refugees had no intention of setting fire to the camp where they were staying.
But then the corona virus arrived, along with a shipwreck. The isolation of the camp cut off the locals from the isolated ATM machine – the only banking facility they had.
Moria was designed in 2015 to accommodate 3,000 people as waves of refugees fled the wars in Syria and northern Iraq. But “briefly” permanently, by Wednesday, 12,000 people were living there. The population before the immigration of Lesbos was only 86,000.
Hours long lines for money
After 35 employees tested positive for COVID, Akbar described a hellish scene in an already overcrowded camp, which forced the facilities to close completely. For many, the “things” are just tents and plastic sheets.
Restrictions have been placed on who can stand for hours to receive a family’s food ration – further complicating the already dangerous food situation in the camp. Restrictions include closing the ATM machine. While the machine is running, long lines form in front of it, as these photos show from May:
Ort Mortasa (ort Mortasa Behoud D) May 14, 2020
The only way for Moria residents to withdraw or receive money was through a bank machine, as the camp was within walking distance of the nearest town. Simple tasks such as food, soap or diapers quickly became very difficult, and the camp relied on an official formal handout system, sources told Insider.
People panicked because they did not have the money to buy what they needed.
“There is no money to buy food as the ATM machine is closed and no shops are open,” Akbar said. “Sometimes the food they give you doesn’t come. Families are hungry and babies need milk,” he said.
Protests have become commonplace as the island has been trapped in a camp for thousands of years, with the aim of reopening the bank, facilitating food distribution, evacuating some families from the island and pressuring authorities to reduce congestion.
The fire starts
Some young people started lighting small protest fires.
“The fire was not from adults but from young people. Some of them have no parents or families to control them. They are harassing the police,” Akbar said in an account confirmed by several other witnesses.
Moria is set up among the olive trees at the top of the hill where the wind blows – the wind quickly fills the flames with plastic tents. This has spread to the propane gas canisters that most families use to cook food.
Greek officials have promised to deport the firefighters and launch an investigation.
By Wednesday, Officials had begun plans to relocate hundreds of unaccompanied minors to facilities on the mainland.. Now, they have refused to allow the majority of the homeless refugees off the island.
‘They want us to leave the island, we want them to leave the island’
Tens of thousands of people were suddenly left homeless in the fight for their homes – sleeping in fields and on the roadside in most cases – Greece announces construction of new facility Refugees will be accommodated on ships and naval vessels sent to the scene.
Islanders have been complaining about the facility for months. Five years ago I told them it was temporary. This week they engaged in a number of blockades and clashes with riot police sent from Athens to prevent further “temporary” settlement.
“They want us to leave the island, we want them to leave the island,” Akbar said.