Miloš Bičanski – Moria tragedy

The nearly 13,000 people who had been living in and around the notoriously overcrowded Moria camp on the Greek island Lesbos, have been left homeless by two consecutive fires on Tuesday and Wednesday night.

Thousands of former camp residents slept in the open for a third night on Thursday, some cutting down reeds and using salvaged blankets to make rudimentary shelters to protect them from the night-time chill and the scorching day-time sun.

Aid organisations have long warned about dire conditions in the camp, which had a capacity of about 2,750 people but was housing more than 12,500 inside and in a spillover tent city that sprang up in an adjacent olive grove.

The situation has led to spiralling tension, among the refugees and migrants inside the camp and with local residents who have long called for Moria to be shut down.

Moria houses people from Africa, Asia and the Middle East who crossed from Turkey fleeing poverty or conflict in their homeland.

Under a 2016 deal between the EU and Turkey, those arriving on the Greek islands would remain there pending either their successful asylum application, or deportation back to Turkey.

But a backlog in asylum applications, combined with continued arrivals and few deportations, led to significant overcrowding in Moria and camps on other eastern Aegean islands.

The overcrowded camp and its dire conditions have been held up by critics as a symbol of failures in the EU’s migration and refugee policy.