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Out of the frying pan and into the fire

Migrants crossing the choppy and troubled waters of the Mediterranean Sea in search of better prospects and an improved way of life for themselves and their loved ones are fighting the language barrier of their new country on the one hand and the reception of the local population on the other, which is sometimes welcoming and sometimes not very. They also have the potential to have to fight off the corona virus as well. 

It is unclear as yet what exactly started the fire on the island of Lesbos, the Greek island in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, which ended up levelling the migrant camp of Moria to the ground, but it added to the challenges which the asylum seekers on the island had to come to terms with.

Coupled with the still prevalent corona virus, the migrants are now faced with having to live in makeshift tents with members of their family, and are grappling with new foes and new challenges. 

Security forces on the Greek island of Lesbos, located off the coast of Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean, have begun an operation to relocate thousands of refugees and migrants and give them a new home, especially for those who have been sleeping rough after their previous base camp was levelled due to the fire. 

Large fires were seen to have engulfed more than three different locations in a very short space of time, the local fire chief related to the Greek state television channel ERT. However, some migrants who had been protesting got in the way of the firefighters who at the same time had been attempting to grapple with the flames. 

The main part of the fire, which to begin with was made worse by the presence of high winds in the area, was finally extinguished the following morning, although the fire chief felt that there were still some small sized blazes to be put out on the inner parts of some containers which were kept at the site. 

People started the morning by rousing people in their makeshift tents so that they could be taken to a temporary location that has been speedily put in place in the aftermath of the big blaze that destroyed.

Europe’s largest camp for asylum seekers at Moria on the island. The new Kara Tepe base, which is located close to the island’s main town Mytilene, was constructed on an old army firing range and is very near to the remnants of the site back at Moria. 

However, a lot of the refugees have refused to go anywhere, for fear that the living conditions there would be just as bad as at Moria or possibly even worse, even if their previous camp in Moria was felt to be unsafe, and they are also worried that they would remain on the waiting list for possibly months to have the Greek government process their applications for asylum before a wished for transfer to the Greek mainland or even a different country in the European Union. 

As a result of the fire tearing through the base camp in Moria, on the night of September 8, it is thought that more than 12,000 people, including whole family units and elderly men and women and newborns, have been left without shelter.

The fire destroyed a camp that was already overcrowded and unclean and which had been constructed five years ago during the Europe Union’s refugee crisis. Literally thousands of people have been spending their nights under tarpaulins or tents along the side of the roads and in any of the car parks of closed grocery shops that can be found ever since the fire. 

A man holds a placard as refugees and migrants from the destroyed Moria camp protest after news about the creation of a new temporary camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, September 12, 2020. /Reuters Source: CGTN

As well as a hostile reception from the local community and isolated attacks from some of their neighbours, the migrants on Lesbos are, to make matters worse, grappling with the corona virus. It has also been reported locally that some Greek nationals from the area attacked members of the migrant community and stopped them from going over to a village in the neighbourhood after they had escaped from the fire itself.

The Greek authorities had placed the Moria base under a firm quarantine early this month after a Somali migrant tested positive for Covid-19, adding to the woes that have befallen the migrant population. The latest reports show that there are now 35 confirmed cases linked to the Moria site on Lesbos. 

The hopes are that the migrants on Lesbos will not be juggling with one hand in trying to come to terms with their new conditions in a sometimes hostile environment, and that they can leapfrog theor present conditions to a better life. 

Peace Over War