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Saturday, 08 August 2020

Death sparks unrest at major migrant camp in Greece

AFP , Sunday 19 Apr 2020
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A fire ripped through one of Greece's largest migrant camps leaving widespread damage and many people homeless after the death of an Iraqi woman sparked unrest, officials said Sunday.

The blaze late Saturday at Vial camp on Chios island destroyed the facilities of the European asylum service, a camp canteen, warehouse tents and many housing containers, Migration Ministry Secretary Manos Logothetis told AFP.

"A large part of the camp's administrative services was destroyed," said Logothetis, adding that no injuries were reported.

The UN refugee agency's spokesperson in Athens Boris Cheshirkov said the damage is still being evaluated but that many camp residents have likely been left homeless.

"Authorities are still assessing the damages but a few hundred people are likely affected because their shelters have burned down. We have donated tents to the authorities which can quickly be put into use and we will assist in replacing the warehouse tents," he told AFP.

At least three vehicles outside the camp were also gutted.

A police source in Athens said two Afghans and an Iraqi had been arrested in relation to the unrest, which erupted after a 47-year-old asylum seeker from Iraq died in the camp on Saturday.

"We managed to restore order at around 1am... There were many people who took part in the incidents," another police source on Chios said.

The Iraqi woman had been taken with a fever to a hospital earlier this week. At the time, a test for coronavirus had returned negative, state news agency ANA reported Saturday.

Migrant camps in Greece have been under quarantine in recent weeks, with authorities trying to keep residents apart from locals.

The virus has so far killed 110 people in Greece. Another 67 are in intensive care.

There have been coronavirus cases in two camps on the mainland. No cases have been reported in island camps so far.

As with all of Greece's island camps, Vial is massively overcrowded with more than 5,000 people living in space intended for around 1,000.

Some 100,000 asylum seekers are currently stranded in Greece after other European states closed their borders in 2016.

Overall, there are more than 36,000 people in the camps on islands near Turkey that were originally built for 6,100.

The migration ministry has said it will begin moving hundreds of elderly and ailing asylum seekers out of the island camps to protect them from the coronavirus.

A scheme to gradually relocate 1,600 unaccompanied minors from war-torn countries to other European nations also began this week.

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