Lesvos. Greece. March 16. Fire Breaks Out in Moria, Injuring Many and Killing One. Alarm Phone reported that many in Moria have not had access to water for the past 3 days besides the plastic water bottles that are handed out. Not only does this make cleaning and using the toilet difficult, it makes putting out fires or following the hygienic measures necessary to prevent an epidemic impossible.
Originally published by Are You Syrious. Image above: Tessa Kraan
The cause of the fire is still unknown. The Guardian reported that it broke out in one of the shipping containers used to house people and spread rapidly through the camp thanks to high winds. It eventually burned down two containers and several tents before firefighters and residents were able to contain it. One child, between six or seven years old, was found dead by firefighters in a container. Many people were treated for injury and shock.
Even if the causes that sparked the fire are not clear yet, the factors that led to its uncontrolled spread are perfectly clear. The crowded conditions in the camp make it easy for a fire to spread. The housing, like tents and containers, do not provide adequate conditions for cooking or heating one’s home, making it more likely that accidents occur. There was a fire two months ago in Kara Tepe and five months ago in Moria itself, but no actions have been taken since then to make conditions in the camp safer. If basic things such as fire safety cannot be guaranteed to people stuck in Moria and other Greek camps, then a rapidly spreading disease like coronavirus would cause unimaginable catastrophe.
Even after the fire was put out, unsafe conditions continued. The affected area was not sealed off (Warning Facebook Link), and people had to walk on the rubble. This could cause further injuries, especially since many people forced to live in Moria do not have access to proper footwear. Alarm Phone reported that many in Moria have not had access to water for the past 3 days besides the plastic water bottles that are handed out. Not only does this make cleaning and using the toilet difficult, it makes putting out fires or following the hygienic measures necessary to prevent an epidemic impossible.
This tragedy just adds to the argument many people on the move and workers on the ground have been making: Moria is not a safe place to house people. People must be evacuated immediately and given safe housing and asylum, whether in Greece or elsewhere in Europe. Medicins Sans Frontieres called for an evacuation of the hotspots on Sunday, which was echoed by other NGOs like Alarm Phone, saying an outbreak would be almost impossible to contain. German MEP Erik Marquardt, who was visiting the camp at the time, agreed with the necessity of immediate evacuation.
Anyone who does not act now will be complicit in the catastrophe that is awaiting everyone here in Lesbos.
Some people are working tirelessly to stop the possible spread of coronavirus in Moria and other Greek camps. There is a fundraiser you can donate to here (Warning Facebook Link) funding disinfecting gel and the production of masks. Although anti-bacterial hand sanitizer is not the ideal way to combat the virus, unfortunately many in Moria do not have access to soap and water and this is the best alternative.
Others are working to spread awareness about coronavirus and information about best practices, such as the Moria Corona Awareness Team. It is made up of representatives of different communities and professions, such as teachers and pharmacists, concerned about the lack of information and preparedness for an epidemic in the camp. They are working ( Warning Facebook Link ) to cover the “non-medical side” of the epidemic by starting a sewing factory to produce masks and spreading information about new regulations. On Monday, they sent out small teams to help enforce new rules about shopping (five people in, five people out, maintaining appropriate distance in line) in the Mytilini supermarket and in the camp supermarket. The town council also asked the volunteers to help the management of the village main street, and soon more teams will be added to buses and other public places. They are also asking all volunteers and anyone looking to organize non-medical activities to contact them before proceeding as they know the most about the needs of residents. Contact information for the Moria Corona Awareness Team can be found here ( Warning Facebook Link ).
Day Care Center Athens published a video (Warning Facebook Link) giving important information about the virus in Farsi.
Many nonprofits are limiting their activities in the camps in order to prevent spreading the virus. Only medical and absolutely necessary activities are allowed to continue. Many are asking the numerous European volunteers who are not part of any organization but flew to Greece recently to go home, as they could unintentionally spread the virus to people in the camps.
The Greek government announced (Warning Facebook Link) travel restrictions on Sunday. Travel links with Albania and North Macedonia are interrupted as is transport to and from Spain and Italy. Fines of 5,000 euros will be imposed on those who show “anti-social behavior.”
Starting today, Khora Social Kitchen (Warning Facebook Link) in Athens will only serve food to take away and the cafe will be closed. The goal is to prevent crowded conditions that can cause spread of coronavirus but still provide a hot meal to people who need it.
Mobile Info Team will be working remotely to provide information about the asylum process.
The Pampiraiki warehouse in Asclipiou will be closed until further notice.
Our House has to pause (Warning Facebook Link) their community work due to lack of support.
Read the full daily digest of Are You Syrious? here. Topics: Many Organizations Limiting their Activities///Bosnian Government Limits Movement for People on the Move///Coronavirus Affects Asylum Procedures in Italy///France Extends Residency Permits for Three Months/// & More.
As soon as the situation allows (due to Corona restrictions by several EU governments) the Cars of Hope collective will travel to Greece again to support refugees. They need your support to continue their work. Read their statement here.
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