IsraAID provides relief to Lesbos refugees, migrants after fire guts camp

We are deeply concerned about the well-being of the camp’s 12,000 residents, who are left to pick up the pieces, with nowhere to go," said IsraAID CEO Yotam Polizer.

Refugees and migrants sleep on the side of a road following a fire at the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos. (photo credit: ALKIS KONSTANTINIDIS / REUTERS)
Refugees and migrants sleep on the side of a road following a fire at the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos.
(photo credit: ALKIS KONSTANTINIDIS / REUTERS)
IsraAID will be providing emergency relief to the refugees at the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece after thousands of migrants were stranded without shelter on Lesbos on Thursday due to fires that razed their camp to the ground.
IsraAID intends to send temporary shelter and essential items to the refugees for the time being, such as sleeping bags, tents and hygiene products as well as Psychological First Aid for those mentally suffering in the immediate aftermath of the fires.
"The images and reports coming out of Moria Refugee Camp today are truly devastating. We are deeply concerned about the well-being of the camp’s 12,000 residents, who are left to pick up the pieces, with nowhere to go," said IsraAID CEO Yotam Polizer. "IsraAID’s team will launch its response at the earliest opportunity, ensuring we can continue to support the refugee community on Lesbos now, at a time of dire need."
Staff members of the Israeli NGO have already begun providing remote support to the children affected by the devastation through their Secret Garden Educational Center, IsraAID's educational facility located near the Moria refugee camp.
Tuesday's fire already led Greek authorities to send 406 unaccompanied children and teenagers from the camp - notorious for its poor living conditions - to the mainland on three chartered flights.
But thousands more people remained stuck in Lesbos with nowhere to sleep and little to eat.
Local attitudes to the migrants, on an island at the forefront of the European migrant crisis in 2015-2016, have turned largely hostile in recent years as the number of people in the camp gradually rose.
Families slept on roadsides and in fields across the island overnight after a second fire broke out at the camp late on Wednesday, destroying what was left from the first inferno.
On a parking lot outside a supermarket, more than 1,000 migrants including families with small children waited in the sunshine for bottled water and food to be distributed.

SO WHAT HAPPENED?
It was just before midnight on Tuesday when eight migrants who tested positive for COVID-19 were told by authorities they would be isolated to an area just beyond the gated compound, according to witnesses and government officials.
Their relatives would also be moved into the fenced unit, about 40 small wooden houses on a hill inside Greece's biggest migrant settlement set up to deal with any breakout of COVID-19, for further testing.
The news did not go down well and scuffles broke out in the area, surrounded by olive trees, the witnesses and officials said. The melee spread when other migrants in tents close to the isolation unit joined the fray.
Minutes later the fire broke out and tents were in flames fanned by strong winds. By morning the sprawling complex was a smoldering mass of mangled steel and burnt tents and containers. Thousands, including children, were forced to sleep on the streets around the camp.
Greek authorities have launched an investigation. The government says the fire was started by asylum seekers, without providing evidence.
The Moria camp's more than 12,000 residents, four times its capacity, were already sorely tested by living in conditions UN officials had decried as 'shameful' - packed into tents and containers with little running water and frequent fights over food. Pope Francis visited the facility in 2016, in an attempt to highlight conditions and show solidarity with refugees.
Now the already difficult humanitarian situation on Lesbos has becoming even more dire.
"Life in Lesbos is hell. The situation in Moria was very bad," said 26-year-old Mahmoud Noorzaie from Afghanistan, who lived there for more than a year. "We want to leave this island," he said, after the fire.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has previously said that nearly half of migrants now detained on the Greek islands are from Afghanistan and a further 19% are from Syria.
Lesbos, not far from Turkey in the northeastern Aegean Sea, was the preferred entry point into the European Union in 2015-2016 for nearly a million Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis. The flows have been reduced significantly in recent years but thousands remain stuck there, pending a decision on their asylum request.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas described the fires as "a humanitarian disaster," and said EU member states should be ready to take in some of the refugees from the camp.
Boris Pistorius, interior minister of the north German state of Lower Saxony and an influential figure in Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD), said it was time to shut the Moria camp.
"This overcrowded camp is the symbol of the failure of Europe's asylum policy," he said.
Without shelter for a second night and residents opposing government plans to set up tents in other areas, most of the asylum seekers hope they will now be moved to the mainland.
But for now, authorities have said none of them are allowed to leave Lesbos.
"It's very bad now after the fire... but we hope that we can leave now to go to Europe," said Congolese woman Divine, 18. "This place will give me nightmares."