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Fri Sep 30 00:05:27 SAST 2016

Migrants arrested after Greece camp clashes and blaze

AFP | 20 September, 2016 12:31
Refugees and migrants stand at the closed gate of the Moria migrant camp, after a fire at the facility, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, September 19, 2016. File photo
Image by: INTIME / REUTERS

Greek authorities arrested nine migrants and sent in riot police after clashes and a massive blaze at a camp for asylum seekers on the island of Lesbos, police said Tuesday.

Some 5,000 migrants were forced to flee Monday when dozens of tents and shelters at the Moria camp were torched in a blaze sparked when migrants of different nationalities got into a brawl.

The people arrested -- including Afghans, Iraqis as well was one national each from Senegal, Syria and Cameroon -- were taken into custody over the violence that led to the fire, a police source said.

"Calm has returned to the (island)," the source said, adding that 40 riot police had also been sent to Lesbos. "But the situation is still changing."

According to police, fires set during the brawl spread through the camp, destroying 60 pre-fabricated structures, 100 tents and three shipping containers that housed camp services.

The fire cleared out the camp, with Greek media showing images of women fleeing with babies in their arms. However, no injuries have been reported.

A ministerial source said the Moria camp would be rebuilt as soon as possible. In the meantime authorities were placing families at another camp on Lesbos.

On Lesbos itself there are in excess of 5,600 people, over 2,000 more than the nominal capacity of the camps.

Brawls are common, with many desperate to avoid being returned to Turkey or their home countries after spending a small fortune and risking their lives trying to escape poverty and persecution.

"It is not surprising," said Roland Schoenbauer, a representative in Greece of the UN's refugee agency, pointing to a "lack of security" at the camp.

He reiterated UNHCR's calls for the transfer "as soon as possible" of part of the migrants on the Greek islands onto mainland Europe.

There are now more than 60,000 refugees and migrants in Greece, most of them seeking to travel to Germany and other affluent EU countries.

But they are unable to do so after several eastern European and Balkan states shut their borders earlier this year.

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