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Greece arrests six over migrant-camp fire

By EARLE GALE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-09-17 09:40

Refugees and migrants carrying their belongings flee a fire burning at the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, Sept 9, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Police have arrested six people in connection with a fire that tore through the Moria refugee camp in Greece on Sept 8, threatening the lives of the 12,500 migrants from 70 nations who lived there.

The BBC quoted Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrisohoidis as saying all six were young migrants. The Associated Press news agency added that two were 17 and all were from Afghanistan.

The authorities said from the start that the fire on the island of Lesbos in Greece's largest camp was deliberately set. Konstantinos Theofilopoulos, the local fire chief, told media at least three blazes began simultaneously and others flared subsequently.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who met with European Union Council President Charles Michel in Athens on Tuesday to talk about the migrant situation, called on other European nations to help house migrants who have been flooding into his country.

The BBC said he said now is the "time for Europe's support to pass from words into actions, to be expressed in tangible solidarity".

The Associated Press news agency said on Wednesday that the Greek government wants to run its camps in partnership with the EU, so the bloc can better understand the situation.

Michel, who flew on to Lesbos after the meeting, said the 27-nation bloc must "take more responsibilities".

"We want to support the eff orts made by the Greek authorities," Agence France-Presse quoted him as saying.

But, so far, only Germany has committed to accept some of those made homeless by the fire. It will take 1,553 people who have been confirmed to be refugees seeking asylum, rather than economic migrants.

Agence France-Presse said Berlin wants the EU to look once more at its response to the migrant crisis.

According to participants of a meeting on Tuesday of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's parliamentary group, she said Europe's poor response was "not a sign of Europe's values and capacity for action".

But poorer European nations, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, have refused to accept migrants.

The EU's executive commission is expected to present new proposals on the bloc's response as early as next week.

As of Wednesday, around 1,000 former residents of the Moria camp had been rehoused in a new camp nearby called Kara Tepe, which was built with the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on a former military firing range.

Greece's migration minister, Notis Mitarakis, told the daily newspaper Ekathimerini that it will eventually be able to accommodate all of those made homeless by the fire. In the meantime, many are sleeping rough.

The Greek government believes the fire was set after the authorities tried to get people who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus to go into isolation.

In the meantime, migrants continue to flood into Greece, which they see as a gateway into Europe.

On Monday, the Greek coastguard saved 56 people after a boat capsized off the island of Crete in an incident that claimed the lives of a woman and two children.

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