On Monday 19 September a fire demolished a big part of the Moria hotspot on the Greek island of Lesvos. Different sources report that the camp suffered 30% to 60% damage. Many refugees were forced to flee the premises with little but the clothes on their backs and 95 unaccompanied children had to be transferred temporarily to the Pikpa reception site nearby. 30 people were injured and had to be taken to the hospital. The island of Lesvos is severely overcrowded and hosts over 5,300 people, but only has the capacity for 3,500.

Tensions and clashes between ethnic groups have been running high for some time in Moria, while a protest rally organised by residents in the town of Mytilini on Monday seems to have been infiltrated by far right groups. UNHCR emphasised that the security situation in Moria and other reception sites has reached a critical level and once more called upon the security and law enforcement authorities to increase security to protect refugees and migrants, but also aid workers and civil servants working in the reception centres. The dire living conditions, in addition to the enduring feeling of uncertainty, fuel frustration and despair among refugees and migrants, which often leads to tension in the centres.

“The European Union and Greece cannot carry on stockpiling refugees indefinitely on the Greek islands,” stated Amnesty International’s Giorgos Kosmopoulos. “Instead EU leaders must share responsibility fairly and they must urgently start moving refugees to the mainland and onwards across Europe.”

“It was a matter of time, before something like this would happen in Moria,” said ECRE’s Aspasia Papadopoulou. “Overcrowding, differential treatment between nationalities and complete uncertainty about the future obviously lead to tensions and frustration. People need to be transferred to the mainland as a matter of urgency, starting with the 95 children waiting for shelter.”

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