Charities call for mass evacuation of ‘hellish’ migrant camp on Greek island of Lesbos

Humanitarian organisations have condemned the “hellish” conditions in a notorious migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, a day after a woman and a child died in a fire that broke out in the centre.

Violent clashes erupted between asylum seekers and Greek police on Sunday, after the blaze broke out in shipping containers in which many migrants are housed. At least 17 people were hurt.

The Moria camp has been chronically overcrowded for years, but a recent increase in the number of asylum seekers arriving by boat from the Turkish coast has made conditions even more untenable.

Around 13,000 men, women and children are now squeezed into a facility that has a capacity for 3,000.

Medical teams from the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres were on Monday assessing people who had been affected by the violence.

“We are outraged by the events in Moria and the reported death of at least two people, a mother and a child, as a result of a fire inside the camp. No one can call the fire and these deaths an accident,” said Marco Sandrone, MSF’s field coordinator on Lesbos.

“European and Greek authorities who continue to contain these people in these conditions have a responsibility in the repetition of these dramatic episodes.”

The charity said it was “high time to stop” what it called an inhumane policy of containment and called for the urgent evacuation of people “out of the hell that Moria has become.”

It is the second death of a child in the camp in a week. Last week a five-year-old Afghan boy, who was either asleep or playing in a large cardboard box, was accidentally run over by a lorry.

The truck driver was delivering goods when he ran over the box without realising there was anyone inside it.

“The death of a mother and a baby is appalling, and a direct consequence of the EU’s migration policies,” said Renata Rendón, Oxfam’s head of mission in Greece. She called for the mass evacuation of refugees held in the camp.

“People arriving in Greece should be relocated to safe accommodation across the EU, not crammed into dangerous spaces where their life is at risk.”

Greek officials said on Monday they would step up the rate of transfers to reception centres on the mainland.

Lefteris Economou, a Greek minister, said 250 people would be transferred from Moria by the end of the day.

With cold weather approaching, the government intends to move at least 3,000 people from Lesbos and camps on other Aegean islands by the end of October.

More than 9,000 asylum seekers reached Greece in August, the highest number in the three years since the EU and Turkey implemented a deal to shut off the Aegean migrant route.

More than 8,000 people have arrived in September, according to the UNHCR.

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