Moria fire in Greece: thousands of migrants find themselves homeless on the island of Lesbos

A woman carries a baby as refugees and migrants flee a fire at Moria camp on the island of Lesvos, Greece, September 9, 2020. REUTERS / Alkis Konstantinidis

Text by: RFI Follow

5 mins

The Greek Civil Protection declared a "state of emergency" in Lesvos, an Aegean island with 85,000 inhabitants and the main gateway for migrants to Greece due to its proximity to Turkey.


Read more

Thousands of migrants are now homeless on the island of Lesbos.

A huge fire ravaged the largest refugee camp in Greece during the night from Tuesday to Wednesday

, where nearly 13,000 people lived for an official capacity of 2,800. According to the Greek Minister of Migration,

demonstrations within the camps against the Quarantine conditions in this overcrowded camp

would be at the origin of the disaster.

A second fire followed overnight from Wednesday to Thursday.

What happens to homeless migrants


The flames of the first fire, two nights ago, had largely destroyed the Moria camp itself, that is to say the part occupied in particular by dozens of containers and surrounded by a fence, reports our correspondent at Athens

Joël Bronner


The second fire, that night, started in the heart of the tents, gathered around this official structure, part of which had been spared and under which some asylum seekers had come to find refuge. 

Faced with the urgency of the accommodation issue, the authorities announced on Wednesday a first series of measures.

Starting with the transfer of 400 unaccompanied minors to the city of Thessaloniki, in the north of the country.

Temporary accommodation solutions are or will also be offered, particularly on the water.

A ferry from the Blue Star company was to accommodate 1,000 people and two military ships are expected in Lesbos on Thursday.

The dispatch of new tents should for the moment complete this device. 

Following the Moria fire, the Greek Ministry of Migration also relaunched the general idea of ​​setting up closed centers for asylum seekers, i.e. the equivalent of prisons. .

The need to " 

effect systemic change 


Faced with this disaster, Adriana Tidona, researcher in Greece for Amnesty International, is now waiting for a realistic long-term plan from the European Union.

We believe that the tragic events in Moria camp are a final call to the European Union to get rid of its migration policies based on the idea of ​​preventing arrivals by containing people en masse in overcrowded camps.

As the situation in Moria has shown, this only creates suffering and insecurity for the residents.

Moria has been overcrowded for years.

Europe should not have waited for the situation to reach this level to realize it. 



After the Moria fire, at Amnesty International, we believe it is essential that the European Union and its member states increase their aid to Greece by relocating residents and increasing material support.

But this should not relieve them of the responsibility of implementing systemic change to prevent this kind of event in the future.

We believe that the new pact on immigration and asylum which is currently being finalized should serve as a new departure for the European approach towards migrants and that an effective and fair system of accountability for migrants. asylum seekers and refugees is essential for this change to be a real one. 



shame of Europe


For years now,

this migrant camp, the largest in Europe, has been denounced as insanitary and sordid by NGOs


In 2015, with the war in Syria, the former military camp of Moria, which had become an administrative processing center for migrants two years earlier, saw an influx of 450,000 asylum seekers in one year.

The European Union has made Moria a Hot Spot, a center for processing requests and distributing migrants in different European countries.

Countries which, in the end, will not welcome migrants, who find themselves trapped in what quickly becomes a gigantic camp overflowing on the neighboring olive groves.

Moria was only to accommodate 2,800 people.

This year, nearly 12,800 were crowded there in deplorable conditions, " 

a shame for Europe

 ", accuse the NGOs.

Not enough access to water, sanitation, education, healthcare, and daily violence: rapes, kidnappings of minors, murders, drug trafficking, suicide ... And last week, 35 people were tested positive for coronavirus. 

Five years ago, the inhabitants of the island were helping migrants.

Now they are preventing them from docking and social workers are being targeted.

Moria is a good illustration of the urgency of reforming European migration policy, stuck in a divided union.

At the end of the month, the European Commission is due to present a proposal, which has been rejected several times, for a “new Pact on migration and asylum”.


Receive all the international news directly in your mailbox

I subscribe

Follow all the international news by downloading the RFI application


  • Greece

  • Immigration

  • International Migration

On the same subject

Great report

Militias and migrants, the convulsions of the island of Lesbos

Hello europe

Refugees: strong tensions in Lesbos after the opening of the Turkish border

In Lesbos, the Greek far-right turns into a militia in the face of the arrival of migrants