© MSF/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
09 Sep 20 22 Sep 20

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

Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos has been completely destroyed by fire. The camp was home to people seeking safety in Europe, many having fled conflict and persecution.

Several fires erupted in the Moria reception centre on Lesbos on the night of 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.

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

Marco Sandrone, Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (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."

A second consecutive night of fires occurred on 9 September, forcing people who had returned to the site to evacuate again in search of shelter.

Earlier in the day, the Greek government declared a state of emergency on the island of Lesbos. Meanwhile, MSF has rapidly reopened its clinic near to Moria camp with a skeleton team able to provide medical assistance to those in need.

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Inhumane conditions

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.

“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 paediatric clinic.

Update: 17 September 2020

One week after the fire that destroyed Moria camp, thousands of people are still in dire need of medical care. From 12-16 September, our teams provided 508 consultations in our newly set-up field clinic for people sleeping on the streets.

People showed health concerns relating to wound trauma, skin diseases, obstetric conditions, chronic diseases as well as other issues. 

Read More: "A new camp will not resolve this disaster" >

Ignored warnings

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.

Aerial view of Moria camp on Wednesday morning with fires still burning

Destroyed structures within the camp where 12,000 people were held, including large numbers of children

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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