Angelos Tzortzinis / AFP via Getty Images
A few days after a fire ravaged the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, displacing more than 12,000 people, some of those same people were hit with tear gas by police as they protested against the construction of a replacement camp. .
Protesters say they want to leave the island entirely.
Hundreds of refugees gathered on Saturday, some chanting “freedom” and carrying placards, as bulldozers cleared debris in preparation for new tents, Reuters reported. Police fired tear gas after demonstrators tried to march towards Mytilene, the island’s main town.
The new Lesvos camp, set up at an army shooting range, will accommodate around 3,000 people, according to local media. Families and members of “vulnerable groups” will have priority, government officials said. It is not clear what will happen to the other 9,000 or so refugees.
After the fires, according to CNN, Greek officials transferred more than 400 unaccompanied minors to mainland Greece. But the authorities refused the mass transfer off the island, despite the refugees’ demands. Officials promised to provide safe and hygienic conditions for the new tent camp.
The Moria camp was built to house 3,000 people, but at least four times the number of people living there.
Complicating the resettlement are fears of the coronavirus. Authorities have lost track of 35 camp residents who tested positive for the virus, Reuters reported. And the displaced refugees have not had access to basic sanitation in the days that have passed since the Moria camp fire.
“This is a health bomb,” Skai Matina Pagoni, president of the Athens and Piraeus hospital doctors’ union, told the news on television. “These people haven’t even had access to water all these days, they can’t even wash their hands.”