Fire damages Greek island refugee centre

Second fire at building built for migrants, after reception centre was burned down last Monday

Children play in the overcrowded Moria camp on the island of Lesbos. Photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/ Getty Images

Children play in the overcrowded Moria camp on the island of Lesbos. Photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/ Getty Images

 

A fire broke out at a refugee centre on the Greek island of Lesbos on Sunday, causing considerable damage to a warehouse but no injuries, Greece’s firefighting service said.

It was the second fire at an installation built for migrants, after a reception centre was burned down by unknown perpetrators last Monday.

The warehouse, which contained furniture and electrical appliances, was destroyed, a firefighting service spokesman told the Associated Press.

An investigation into the fire is under way.

The blaze at the refugee centre came amid a tense stand-off between Turkey and the European Union over who is responsible for the millions of migrants and refugees on Turkish territory and the thousands who have massed at the Greek border.

Thousands of migrants headed for Turkey’s land border with EU member Greece after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government announced earlier this month that it would no longer prevent migrants and refugees from crossing over to EU countries.

Greece has deployed riot police and border guards to repel people trying to enter the country.

The Greek border area has since seen violent confrontations between the migrants and Greek security forces, with officers in Greece firing tear gas to block the migrants and Turkish police firing tear gas back at their Greek counterparts.

Rocks

On Saturday, youths threw rocks at Greek police and tried to break down a border fence in a desperate attempt enter Greece. At least two migrants were injured in the skirmishes.

Mr Erdogan will travel to Brussels on Monday to talk with top EU officials about a 2016 Turkey-EU agreement on containing the refugee flows to Europe which has now collapsed. The two sides have accused each other of failing to respect their commitments.

The deal called for Turkey to halt the flow of Europe-bound migrants and refugees in exchange for up to €6 billion in aid for Syrian refugees on its territory, fast-track EU membership and visa-free travel to Europe for Turkish citizens.

Mr Erdogan has demanded that Europe shoulder more of the burden of caring for refugees, accusing the EU of failing to disburse the money. He announced that Turkey, which already houses more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees, would no longer be Europe’s gatekeeper.

The decision has irked EU countries, which are still dealing with the political fallout from a wave of mass migration five years ago.

EU foreign ministers have criticised Turkey, saying it is using the migrants’ desperation “for political purposes”.

Thousands of migrants have slept in makeshift camps near the border since the Turkish government said they were free to go, waiting for the opportunity to enter Greece. – AP