Greek police begin moving asylum-seekers into new camp

KARA TEPE, Greece (AP) – A Greek police operation was underway on the island of Lesbos yesterday to move thousands of migrants and refugees who have been sleeping on a roadside after a fire destroyed their overcrowded camp into a new facility on the island.

Police said the morning operation included 70 female police officers who were approaching asylum-seekers with the aim of persuading them to move to the new camp in the island’s Kara Tepe area. No violence was reported as the operation began.

The United Nations (UN) refugee agency’s local representative welcomed the move.

“As long as it is peaceful, we believe it is a good move, considering that here on the street it is a risk for security, for public health and it’s not dignity which we need for everyone,” said Astrid Castelein, head of the UNHCR’s office on Lesbos.

The notoriously squalid Moria camp burned down last week in fires that Greek authorities said were deliberately set by a small group of the camp’s inhabitants angered by lockdown restrictions imposed after a coronavirus outbreak.

The blazes have left more than 1,200 people in need of emergency shelter. The vast majority have been sleeping rough by the side of a road leading from Moria to the island capital of Mytilene, erecting makeshift shelters made of sheets, blankets, reeds and cardboard.

The new camp consists of large family tents erected in a field by the sea. By Wednesday night, it had a capacity of around 8,000 people, according to the UN refugee agency, but only around 1,100 mostly vulnerable people had entered.

Migrants wait to receive treatment at the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) clinic near a new makeshift camp on the island of Lesbos. PHOTO: AFP