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News > Greece

Fire in Migrant Camp in Greece Leaves Hundreds Homeless

  • Living conditions in the camps are extremely poor and inevitably lead to violence.

    Living conditions in the camps are extremely poor and inevitably lead to violence. | Photo: AFP

Published 27 April 2020

"Around 200 people have been left homeless," a migration ministry official said. The blaze was due to "internal disputes [between residents]."

More than 200 migrants and refugees have been left without shelter after a fire broke out Sunday evening in a severely overcrowded camp on the Greek island of Samos, according to Migration Ministry Secretary Manos Logothetis.


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"Around 200 people have been left homeless," Logothetis told AFP Monday. The blaze was due to "internal disputes [between residents]."

On Monday, another fire was started in a new round of clashes between "Arabic speakers and Africans," a local police source said according to AFP reports.

"The incidents began on Sunday night. The fire was put out at midnight, but today we had more tension and stone-throwing," the source added.

In a report by state broadcaster ERT, the police was seen arresting migrants, as well as an apparently unconscious migrant being carried by others to the street. There were no immediate reports of injuries but the fires destroyed many huts, tents, and container homes. 

Field coordinator on Samos with the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Stefan Cordes confirmed the account of the incidents to Al Jazeera but said the number of those left homeless after the two fires is about 500.

According to Cordes, living conditions in the camps are extremely poor, leading inevitably to violence either between migrants or directed at authorities.

The expert accused the government and the European Union (EU) of failing in their responsibility towards these people who are increasingly in despair over the conditions and the slow processing of their asylum applications.

Earlier this month another fire in the migrant camp on Chios destroyed the facilities of the European asylum service, a camp canteen, warehouse tents, and many housing containers in a riot started after a 47-year-old Iraqi woman died there.

The Samos camp is currently housing nearly 7,000 people in a facility built to handle fewer than 650. The island's mayor, Giorgos Stanzos, has for months been pressing the authorities in Athens to evacuate the camp, according to reports.

The Greek government had planned to lighten the burden on its islands camps by relocating to the mainland more than 2,300 asylum seekers - including many elderly and ailing persons - but the operation has so far been delayed due to fears of a spread of the coronavirus.

No coronavirus case has been officially reported in camps on the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros, and Kos. But there have been outbreaks in two camps and a migrant hotel on the mainland.

As of Monday, Greece has reported 2,534 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 136 deaths.

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