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After the Fire

Having survived the Aegean Sea and arson, Moria residents face an uncertain future

Published in Newlines Magazine

A child cries while praying in during a peaceful demonstration on 13th of September in Kara Tepe, where people demanding to be allowed to leave Lesbos island after their accommodation in the infamous Moria camp burned down. “You should pray to God, only him can save us. Our demonstrations have failed. Now we only have God” was heard in a loudspeaker.

On Sept. 8, 2020, fires burned down the Mória Refugee Camp in Lesbos, the biggest refugee camp in Europe which until then was home to almost 13,000 asylum-seekers. Built initially for less than 3,000 people, the camp’s population grew over the past few years. Thousands were living there in cramped and inhumane conditions.

It’s still unclear how the fire started, but Greek police have arrested six Afghan asylum-seekers on the suspicion of arson. They claim the fire was started by them in protest against the poor living conditions. Refugees, however, dispute this. They claim that while a small fire was lit at a protest, the fire that burned down the camp was started by a small group of angry locals and far right activists in a completely different part of the camp.

Moria now belongs to the past but tension persist.

After days of sleeping rough without food or water and constantly harassed by riot police, groups of asylum seekers, including children, started organizing peaceful protests. The police responded with teargas.

Most of the asylum seekers have since been moved to a temporary camp in Kara Tepe, a few kilometers from Moria. Conditions there are even worse. With the winter approaching, families will have to live in flimsy tents with no running water and limited toilet facilities.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis conferred with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President of the European Commission Von der Leyen to create a new permanent camp on the island. Meanwhile, the situation remains tense with locals showing dissatisfaction with government plans and asylum seekers trying to survive in flooded tents after the first autumn rains hit the island.