According to reports in Greek media, over 2,000 migrants are gathering along the main road leading toward the now burned migrant camp of Moria on Friday.
They are demanding to leave the island of Lesvos, chanting “Freedom, Freedom” to police officers who are attempting to control the crowd.
This demonstration comes after a series of fires that left Moria, Europe’s largest refugee camp, destroyed. Starting early late Tuesday night and continuing throughout the week, the fires reduced the overcrowded camp to ashes, and left its over 12,000 residents without shelter.
Many resorted to sleeping on the streets, or in cemeteries. Others found refuge in churches.
The fires are believed to have been started by refugees who had just been diagnosed with the coronavirus who then resisted orders to enter into quarantine.
Greek Minister of State Giorgos Gerapetritis announced on Friday that a shipment with 200,000 rapid Covid-19 tests arrived at the airport in Mytilene and that a large number of sample tests will be carried out among the locals, migrants and refugees, seeking to identify and isolate any further coronavirus outbreaks.
Strict Covid-19 measures, fear of a larger outbreak, and overcrowded, unsanitary conditions are thought to have served as the kindling for another, metaphorical fire — one that many had been warning about for years.
Many of the migrants in Moria have been stuck in limbo for years, awaiting decisions on their asylum applications and desiring to be transported to other European countries. After the fire that destroyed the camp, they are hoping they will finally get the chance to leave.
However, Greek government officials have stated that, since it is very likely that there are positive coronavirus cases among the migrants, they will not be allowed to leave Lesvos.
In an attempt to house the migrants, the Greek government has now begun the construction of a new emergency camp on Lesvos.
The new camp will be close to Kara Tepe, which had been used as the “overflow” camp for Moria. It is reserved for vulnerable groups and families who are waiting for their asylum requests to be processed.
The new camp now has now been filled with tents brought to the island by helicopters. The Greek government is hoping to bring those in need of shelter to the new camp in a timely and organized manner.
In response to the catastrophic fires, the US State Department announced on Thursday that the United States will work with the Greek government, the EU, and humanitarian groups in continuing to provide essential aid to vulnerable refugees and migrants in Greece.
In the past year, the U.S. has provided more than $8 million to Greece to help in this effort, including nearly $5 million in response to the coronavirus alone.