By Nico Bougas, Special to ASSIST News Service
LESBOS, GREECE (ANS – July 13, 2017) — Refugees have set fire to the major refugee camp, Moria, on the Greek holiday island of Lesbos. Tents and shipping containers were burnt to the ground then blocked emergency services from reaching blaze. It has been reported that asylum seekers hoping to reach Europe were told they would be deported to Turkey.
Trouble flared on the afternoon of Monday, July 10, 2017, just as EU chiefs gave the green light to more than $6 million in funds for the affected camp at Lesbos and another on Chios.
The rioting occurred on the Greek island of Lesbos.
Christian Humanitarian Groups Suffer Losses
Eurorelief, the refugee relief agency of Hellenic Ministries, suffered major damage to their office and equipment estimated at $20,000. Although no physical injuries were reported. Several other Christian humanitarian agencies also reported losses.
Pictures from the scene shows clouds of black smoke billowing up from the Moria reception center on Lesbos as fire trucks raced to put out the blaze.
Two large tents were burnt to the ground and several shipping containers used as temporary accommodation were also damaged.
Police and First Responders Blocked
Police called to the incident were hit with stones and retaliated with tear gas to bring the situation under control. Police had been called to the area to deal with a “major disturbance” before the blaze.
A spokesman for Lesbos mayor’s office said migrants were blocking the road and preventing fire trucks reaching the inferno.
Witnesses reported hearing explosions and smelling smoke before they were evacuated from the area.
One witness said: ‘There are still people inside but people are protesting The people are tired, they are tired of what is happening here.’
Chaotic Scenes at the Camp
Another witness said that protesters started lighting rubbish on fire, which led to larger blaze. People then started throwing stones during clashes with officials.
Many migrants in the camp have been at the facility for more than a year.
More than 14,000 migrants remain stranded on Lesbos and other Greek islands near Turkey.
They are not allowed to travel to the Greek mainland under the terms of an agreement between the European Union and Turkey reached last year.
One post on Facebook from a migrant at the center said the riot started after a visit from the local mayor who was made aware of the conditions in the camp.
The Iranian asylum seeker said the migrants had complained about sub-standard living conditions several times but they had been ignored.
Around 14,000 migrants are thought to be in the camps in Lesbos and Chios waiting to be processed and either allowed into Greece or sent back to Turkey.
One migrant said: “It is like a war zone in there. It all started when some were told they were being sent back to Turkey where they had come from and they set fire to rubbish and threw stones at the police.”
Photo captions: 1) Refugees set fire to camp at Lesbos. 2) Refugees protest march prior to riot and fire. 3) Tents and shipping containers were burnt to the ground at the Moria refugee camp in Lesbos. (Reuters). 4) Nico Bougas with his wife, Bee, to whom he had been married for 44 years. They have four wonderful children — George, Benjie, Jonty and Tami.
About the writer: Nico Bougas is the International Development Director for Hellenic Ministries. He has a master’s degree in communication from Wheaton Graduate School and M. Div and D. Min degrees from Trinity Theological Seminary. He is the author of five books. He previously worked for Youth for Christ in South Africa and was Editor of In Magazine and Christian Living TODAY and currently serves as Consulting Editor for JOY Magazine and a Trustee for Radio CCFM and was one of the founders of Sports Outreach Africa. He previously served on the national executive of the SA Association of Evangelists and as a Trustee for the Bible Institute of South Africa and on the advisory board for the South African Theological Seminary and on the executive of The Evangelical Alliance Relief Fund (SA). For further information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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