Major fire breaks out at Greek migrant camp

Published : September 20, 2021 18:01 IST

Firefighters try to extinguish the flames at makeshift tents outside the perimeter of the overcrowded refugee camp at the port of Vathy. Photo: Michael Svarnias/AP Photo/picture alliance

The Vathy camp was overtaken by a major fire on the eve of migrants being transferred out. Many are headed to a new €43 million ($50 millon) "closed" high-tech secure facility.

The Greek Ministry of Migration said on September 19 a major fire had overtaken the Vathy migrant camp on the island of Samos before being brought under control. "There is no danger for those who are still there because the fire broke out in abandoned sheds in the western side of the camp," the ministry said, adding all asylum-seekers had been evacuated to an empty space near the entrance to the camp.

Samos is one of the Aegean islands where migrants traveling through nearby Turkey arrive. Samos mayor Girgos Stantzos told news agency AFP the entire site had been evacuated. Several migrants, including crying children, were gathered in a parking lot near the Vathy camp. The fire brigade said 13 firefighters and six engines were fighting the blaze and there were no reports of any injuries.

Camp was long criticized for poor conditions

While Vathy is soon to be closed at the end of the month, it is still housing at least 300 people who are awaiting transfer on Monday to one of the new "closed" camps with high-tech security on Samos. The new facility is the first of five planned. It was opened over the weekend by Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi.

In opening the new facility, he conceded conditions at Vathy had been squalid in the past. Human rights campaigners had long denounced conditions at Vathy. A facility initially built for 680 people, during the peak of arrivals of refugees and asylum-seekers in 2015 and 2016, the Vathy camp housed 7,000.

The new camps are also opposed by rights groups. They say the new camps are too restrictive, too much like a prison. The new 12,000 square meter (39,000 square feet) camp is equipped with surveillance cameras, x-ray scanners and magnetic doors as well as a barbed wire fence around it.

The structure also includes a detention center for migrants whose asylum claims have been rejected who will be sent back to Turkey.

ar/rs (AFP, AP)

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