Hundreds of people have been evacuated from a soon-to-be-closed Vathy migrant camp on the Greek island of Samos, after a massive fire engulfed the facility just ahead of a planned relocation of its remaining residents.
Six fire engines were sent to the scene to contain the blaze, which according to authorities had started in a deserted area. “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 Greek Ministry of Migration said.
Ein Tag vor dem Umzug in das neue Lager brennt es um 23h im alten Fluchtlager von #Samos. pic.twitter.com/1dT2pybcun
The fire nevertheless forced a full evacuation, with several hundred people temporarily moved to an “empty space” near the entrance of the camp, while a handful of unaccompanied minors were transferred to a new facility.
#asylum seekers gathering in front of camp in #Vathy, #Samos to escape the flames. Police have entered the premises. @dwnewspic.twitter.com/82Cpxckufz
The camp was due to shut down this week, but still housed between 300 and 500 migrants who were awaiting transfer.
Though under control now, many people lost everything, while a Greek official just denied this fact towards TV channels, stating that no one would live in the burnt area and that people would move voluntarily to the new camp tomorrow. Both is not true. pic.twitter.com/7R0BYfJLnb
Originally built to accommodate less than 700 people, Vathy sheltered up to 7,000 asylum-seekers at one point, often drawing criticism from human rights activists.
The new $50 million 12,000-square-meter “closed-style” facility was inaugurated this weekend. It features a double barbed-wire fence, surveillance cameras, X-ray scanners and magnetic doors, as well as a detention center for rejected asylum seekers.
Almost exactly a year ago, a fire ripped through the Moria migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, devouring tents housing around 13,000 people. Greek investigators believe that the fire was deliberately started by the asylum-seekers themselves in protest against Covid-19 restrictions.
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