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09 Sep 20 07 Oct 20

Moria fire: 12,000 people on the streets as Greek island camp destroyed

UPDATED 6th OCTOBER 2020: Almost a month on from the fires that destroyed Moria camp, thousands of people remain in insecure living conditions on Lesbos and in need of medical assistance. From 12-16 September, our teams provided 508 consultations in our newly set-up field clinic for people sleeping on the streets. 

Our teams treated people for health conditions relating to wound trauma, skin diseases, obstetric conditions, chronic diseases as well as other issues. 

MSF has been alerting European states to conditions in the camp for years and just the week before these fires, had 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, even after the Moria disaster. On the nearby island of Samos, 4,500 people including more than 1,000 children, are forced to live in filthy and overcrowded conditions in the Vathy camp. There are hundreds of vulnerable people, and others who, due to their medical conditions, are at high-risk to COVID-19. 

Shortly after the fire, RTÉ Morning Ireland spoke with our colleague Faris Al-Jawad, who gave an account of how those affected were coping, and of the medical and humanitarian needs of the population, which remain significant.

MSF has adapted activities to respond to the enormous needs and created a new clinic in a warehouse close to where people were sleeping, and continues to advocate for the safe relocation of those affected.

MSF doctor Claire Dunne, has been working intermittently with refugees on Lesbos since May 2019 and has remained on the island throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In an interview with Ray D’Arcy on RTÉ Radio One, Claire gave a first-hand account of her experience working in Moria, and the immensely difficult situation facing refugees on Lesbos in the aftermath of the fire.  

In the aftermath of the disaster, Ireland’s Minister for Justice has confirmed that Ireland has committed to the relocation of an additional fifty women, men and children from Greece to Ireland. MSF continues to advocate for the evacuation of those affected by the Moria fires from Lesbos, and for an end to the EU’s cruel migration policies of containment and deterrence.  

9th SEPTEMBER 2020: Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos has been completely destroyed by fire….

"We saw an exodus of people fleeing from a burning hell with nowhere to go. Children are scared and parents in shock"

MARCO SANDRONE  MSF COORDINATOR IN LESBOS

Several fires erupted in the Moria reception centre on Lesbos last night (8 September), leaving the camp almost entirely destroyed and forcing about 12,000 men, women and children to evacuate the site with no alternative place to stay.

The fire which tore through Moria - home to around 12,000 people seeking safety, including large numbers of children

Marco Sandrone, MSF coordinator in Lesbos, shared this from the scene:

“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."

Inhumane conditions

The fire which tore through Moria - home to around 12,000 people seeking safety, including large numbers of children

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 camps 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," says Sandrone.

"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.

Aftermath of the fire which tore through Moria - home to around 12,000 people seeking safety, including large numbers of children

“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.

Ignored warnings

Aftermath of the fire which tore through Moria - home to around 12,000 people seeking safety, including large numbers of children

MSF has been warning states 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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