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Greece resettles hundreds displaced by Moria fire

September 14, 2020

Greek officials have threatened to make asylum conditional to resettlement in a new tent facility on the island of Lesbos. The German government has signaled its intention to take in more migrants in a "second step."

Griechenland Flüchtlinge Lesbos
Image: Getty Images/AFP/L. Gouliamaki

Greek authorities on Monday said that they have resettled 600 out of more than 12,000 migrants into a new tent facility on the isle of Lesbos, just days after a blaze destroyed the main camp Moria.

"We expect that in the next three to four days all [the migrants on Lesbos] will be housed," said Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas. However, he noted that some of the migrants were refusing to relocate to the new facility.

Earlier on Monday, Green Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis told local radio that migrants' asylum applications would be contingent on their agreeing to relocation at the new facility.

"From new Monday, asylum procedures will only be processed for those who are in the camp," Mitarakis said.

Dozens of women and children staged a protest in front of the new facility, calling for help and to be relocated off the island.

"People don't want to go back to the camp, maybe they want to go to other countries, and they want to complain to the Greek government and the other countries," said an Afghan migrant who lived in Moria for more than a year.

Read more:  Opinion: The EU failed displaced people at Moria camp

Authorities are also struggling with a nascent novel coronavirus outbreak. Local media initially blamed the fire on migrants protesting lockdown measures imposed at the camp.

Germany steps in

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said the government in Berlin is in talks with relevant parties to determine a "second step" towards taking in more migrants displaced by the fire.

The German government has already agreed to accept 150 minors in accord with other EU countries. Observers say a new deal could be announced as early as Wednesday, when Merkel will hold a cabinet meeting.

"Talks are now ongoing in the federal government about how else Germany can help, what other substantial contribution our country can make," said Seibert.

Read more:  Moria refugee camp tragedy rekindles political controversy in Germany

However, Seibert noted that Germany's decision to resettle migrants from the Moria camp would not open the door to more in the future. He described the situation in Lesbos as a "humanitarian emergency, a one-off emergency situation."

In 2015, Merkel spearheaded efforts to host refugees in Europe, opening Germany's borders to hundreds of thousands displaced by war in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

ls/msh (dpa, Reuters, AFP)