Fire in Greek migrant camp shines light on overcrowded conditions

Fire in Greek migrant camp shines light on overcrowded conditions

[JURIST] A 66-year-old woman and six-year-old boy have died [BBC report] in a fire in the Greek migrant camp [JURIST report, backgrounder] of Moria on Lesbos, causing some experts to question humanitarian conditions at several Grecian migrant camps. Two others were seriously burned in the fire which is suspected to have been caused by an accidental gas canister explosion. The fire triggered clashes between Greek police [Hellenic police, official website] and migrants leading some migrants to set fires to other parts of the camp. Over the past few months, Moria has been afflicted with unrest as migrants grow weary of long asylum processing wait times. Panos Navrozidis, International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) [advocacy website] country director in Greece, stated [press release] Friday that “the loss of innocent lives last night at Moria… is a damning indictment of the ineptitude of European leaders’ response to the refugee crisis”. IRC further commented that humanitarian actors have been warning about the overcrowded conditions on Moria for months. IRC continued that the refugee camp was only built to accommodate 1,200 people but now houses an estimated 2,700 migrants and that conditions are only expected to worsen as winter approaches. Alexis Tsipras [official website], Prime Minister of Greece, stated [National Herald] Friday that he was “shocked, as is the entire Greek nation, by the tragic event in the Moria camp on Lesbos” and that he would intensify efforts for security and quality of life in the refugee centers.

The rights of refugee and migrant populations has emerged as one of the most significant humanitarian issues around the world. In April several aid organizations urged [JURIST report] EU leaders to stop deportations of migrants from Greece to Turkey and to stop detaining asylum seekers. Also in April Human Rights Watch reported [JURIST report] that the first deportation of 66 people from the Greek island of Chios to Turkey was “riddled with an array of irregularities.” In April UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged [JURIST report] world leaders to accept more refugees and to combat the growing international anti-refugee sentiments. That same month, an independent UN human rights expert encouraged EU leaders to remain steadfast [JURIST report] in their obligations to handle the recent influx of migrants to the EU.