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Greece steps up migrant transfers after Lesbos clashes

September 30, 2019 at 11:55am
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Greece will keep moving asylum seekers from overcrowded camps on its islands to the mainland, government officials said on Monday, after a woman died following clashes and a fire at a refugee camp on the island of Lesbos.

The violent clashes began at the Moria refugee camp on Sunday after a fire broke out inside a shipping container, one of the means Greek authorities use to house refugees. At least 17 people were hurt.

The migrant camp, the country’s biggest, is operating at almost four times its capacity.

The charred remains of a woman were taken to hospital, the health ministry said in a statement. Reports of a second victim remained unconfirmed, officials said, adding that the cause of the fire was under investigation.

Deputy Citizen Protection Minister Lefteris Economou told reporters that 250 people would be transferred from Moria to the mainland by the end of Monday.

The issue would be discussed during a cabinet meeting chaired by the prime minister, a government official said.

About 12,000 migrants and refugees are holed up in Moria camp, a collection of tents and shipping containers, according to data released by the UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency. The government aims to move at least 3,000 people from its islands to the mainland by the end of October, the official said.

Moving asylum seekers from island camps to the mainland is not a new policy. It was announced by the conservative government last month as part of measures intended to deal with a resurgence in refugee and migrant flows from neighbouring Turkey.

More than 9,000 people arrived in Greece in August, the highest number in the three years since the European Union and Ankara implemented a deal to shut off the Aegean migrant route. More than 8,000 people have arrived in September, according to the UNHCR.

Nearly a million refugees, many of them fleeing war in Syria, crossed from Turkey to Greece’s eastern Aegean islands in 2015. Human rights groups have long criticised the poor conditions at the refugee camps.

(Reuters)