Afghans face Greek prosecutor over fire at migrant camp

LESBOS ISLAND, Greece: Six young Afghan men including two minors will face a prosecutor on Greece’s Lesbos island Wednesday on suspicion of setting fires that destroyed Europe’s largest migrant camp last week.

The suspects, aged 20 and below, are to be arraigned after midday, local officials said.

A picture taken on September 16, 2020, shows the remains of the burnt Moria migrant camp on the Greek Aegean island of Lesbos, after it was destroyed by a major fire on the night of September 8. - Six young Afghan men including two minors will face a prosecutor on Greece's Lesbos island on September 16 on suspicion of setting fires that destroyed Europe's largest migrant camp, leaving over 12,000 people homeless. (Photo by ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP)
A picture taken on September 16, 2020, shows the remains of the burnt Moria migrant camp on the Greek Aegean island of Lesbos, after it was destroyed by a major fire on the night of September 8. – Six young Afghan men including two minors will face a prosecutor on Greece’s Lesbos island on September 16 on suspicion of setting fires that destroyed Europe’s largest migrant camp, leaving over 12,000 people homeless. (Photo by ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP)

Two of them, aged 17, had initially been taken off the island in a mass operation to put unaccompanied minors out of harm’s way, state agency ANA reported.

Greek officials had insisted from the start that the fires that destroyed the Moria camp, leaving over 12,000 people homeless, were the result of arson.

Earlier Wednesday, 13 migrants were detained on the island of Samos after a fire broke out near the local camp that houses over 4,700 people.

Most were later released but three remain under questioning, a local police source told AFP.

On Lesbos, crews this week hastily put together another tent camp which according to EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson will eventually accommodate up to 9,000 people.

On Wednesday, the Greek migration ministry said roughly 1,200 of the 12,000 Moria migrants had been housed at the site.

“We expect 2,000 will enter by tonight,” a migration ministry source said.

Among them, 35 have tested positive for coronavirus.

But thousands have been sleeping on the street for the past week, with limited access to food and no sanitation for families including elderly and newborns.

“This is the 21st century! Supermarkets are closed, there are no toilets…we are not animals!” raged Ange, a 23-year-old asylum seeker from DR Congo who was a mechanical engineer in his homeland.

A picture taken on September 16, 2020, shows the remains of the burnt Moria migrant camp on the Greek Aegean island of Lesbos, after it was destroyed by a major fire on the night of September 8. - Six young Afghan men including two minors will face a prosecutor on Greece's Lesbos island on September 16 on suspicion of setting fires that destroyed Europe's largest migrant camp, leaving over 12,000 people homeless. (Photo by ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP)
A picture taken on September 16, 2020, shows the remains of the burnt Moria migrant camp on the Greek Aegean island of Lesbos, after it was destroyed by a major fire on the night of September 8. – Six young Afghan men including two minors will face a prosecutor on Greece’s Lesbos island on September 16 on suspicion of setting fires that destroyed Europe’s largest migrant camp, leaving over 12,000 people homeless. (Photo by ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP)

A migration ministry source in Athens on Wednesday said coronavirus lockdown restrictions had been removed for the camps of Chios and Kos for the first time in months.

But they remain in place for the camps of Samos and Leros until September 29, after three positive cases among residents, the official said.

Crews on Lesbos this week hastily put together another tent camp
Crews on Lesbos this week hastily put together another tent camp. -ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP

Five years after the arrival in Europe of over a million asylum seekers, many fleeing wars in Iraq and Syria, the question over how the bloc should share out its refugee responsibilities remains sensitive. 

European Council chief Charles Michel, flying to Lesbos after talks with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens, urged the 27-nation bloc to “take more responsibilities.”

Germany has offered to take in 1,553 refugees from Greece, on top of the 150 unaccompanied minors from Moria.

France has agreed to take in 150 minors from the camp while other EU nations are admitting a total of 100 other youngsters from Moria.

“We need Europe to help us leave this place,” Ange said. “Would you accept these conditions if your children were in our place?”

“Please, open the gates,” implored 21-year-old Samira.

“We are human beings. Please help the children, they are so very important for the future,” she said.

The EU Commission is expected to present proposals on a new European asylum policy within weeks.

AFP / NST

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