On Wednesday, 9th September 2020, the refugee camp in Moria, Greece’s largest refugee encampment, was ablaze with fire.
Around 13,000 refugees occupied the campsite, all of whom are now homeless. Moria Refugee Camp is an EU initiative to resettle migrants and refugees.
At the time of the fire, there were only 20 firemen available to help. According to the local fire department chief, Konstantinos Theofilopoulos, three fires broke out in three different places within a short timespan.
The first fire reportedly broke around 2:00 AM. Due to the small manpower, the fires were not fully contained until Wednesday afternoon.
Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi has confirmed the fires were caused by refugees protesting camp restrictions. He stated, “many fires broke out in the camp overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday… the incidents in Moria began with the asylum-seekers because of the quarantine imposed”.
Before the fires, around 35 people in the refugee cantonment tested positive for the coronavirus.
Most people testing positive resisted isolation orders.The reasons for this are not clear. According to the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the fires were a ‘violent reaction’ to following SOPs, implying it was a deliberate action.
However, Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi has not confirmed whether the act was intentional or not. In any case, the fire caused thousands of people to flee into neighboring towns and villages. While there were no reported deaths or serious injuries, many people did suffer from smoke exposure.
Local authorities are looking frantically for the 35 people who tested positive for the virus. Police have blocked roads leading to other towns, trying to locate those people.
As mentioned, nearly 13,000 people have nowhere to go. So far, 3000 people have been placed in temporary shelters. EU authorities have agreed to finance the transfers of the 400 children and adolescents living alone in the camp.
The fire department has issued an investigation on the case. Whether the fires were arson or not will be evident once the report is released.