Europe

Greece sends ship to house 1,000 migrants after Moria fire

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Media captionMany of the migrants who fled the fire have now returned to the camp, as Mark Lowen reports

The Greek government is to send a ship to provide accommodation for more than 1,000 migrants after fire destroyed large areas of their camp on the island of Lesbos.

Up to 5,000 people fled the blaze at Moria camp, where migrants and refugees have long complained of overcrowding.

Greek shipping minister Thodoris Dritsas said families would be given priority on the ship.

If necessary a second ship would be sent, he added.

Nine migrants have been arrested in connection with the fire, which destroyed dozens of tents and cabins and damaged acres of nearby fields.

No serious injuries were reported as thousands of people fled the flames.

There were concerns on Tuesday for the safety of some 90 unaccompanied children at the camp. Greek media said they had been moved to another facility and would then be taken to Athens.

'Unmanageable situation'

Overcrowding at the Moria camp has fuelled tensions among residents too and police reinforcements have been sent to boost security.

Northern Aegean regional governor Christiana Kalogirou spoke of an "unmanageable situation" and accused the EU of failing to honour its commitments.

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Image caption Large areas of the overcrowded camp have been destroyed

At the scene: Mark Lowen, BBC News, Moria camp

Through the barbed wire fence, the signs are there: tips of blackened trees and patches of scorched earth where a fire engulfed large parts of Moria, the biggest migrant camp on the island of Lesbos.

For months, anger has been building in Moria as asylum applications have been delayed and migrants have been held in an overcrowded camp. Moria has capacity for 3,500 - but around 5,000 live here in stretched facilities.

"Fighting broke out between blacks and Afghans", says Kingsley, a Ghanaian man who we spoke to through the fence, the authorities not allowing us in.

In the wider Lesbos community, there's also growing anger over the continued migrant presence. The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party has stoked it, organising protests and exploiting the tension. It could prompt more flare-ups here.

Read more from Mark here: Migrants' anger catches fire on Lesbos

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Media captionAmateur footage shows flames engulfing the camp

The number of migrants and refugees arriving on the Aegean islands has slowed since the EU reached a deal with Turkey, but some 13,500 are still being sheltered there.

In March, the EU agreed to work towards visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to Europe's Schengen zone in exchange for Ankara's assistance in curbing migrants crossing to the islands.

What led to the fire late on Monday remains unclear.

According to Greek news agency ANA, a brawl started on Monday after a rumour that refugees would be deported to Turkey en masse. Other witnesses said the disturbance began in an argument over food.

Humanitarian worker Fotini Rantsiou said riots were not unusual in Moria and tensions in the camp had been high all day.

She said a man waiting for news of his asylum application became frustrated with the process and shouted "freedom", provoking alarm among 2,000 people in the camp and a later hunger protest.

Image copyright UGC
Image caption The fire was fanned by strong winds

There were fears that the ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn was trying to advantage of the unrest on Lesbos.

A group of women students was attacked by nationalists in the town of Mytilene on Monday and one of the women needed hospital treatment, local reports said.

The town mayor was verbally abused by far-right protesters who started shouting "throw them into the sea", according to Greek website Kathimerini.

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