ATHENS – Greek police began moving hundreds of migrants stranded on the island of Lesbos into a new temporary tent camp on Thursday, more than a week after a fire razed Greece’s biggest migrant camp where they had been staying.
The operation, including 70 female officers, was intended to protect public health. Police said 450 migrants had entered the camp so far. Of those, 250 had gone through rapid COVID-19 testing with another 200 waiting to take the test.
“The operation began with many officers in white body suits, things are calm and migrants are slowly streaming into the new camp,” a Reuters witness said.
The fire that gutted the Moria facility a week ago left over 12,000 people, most of them refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and various African countries, without shelter, proper sanitation or access to food and water.
Authorities said the fire was started by migrants. No one was hurt.
The new temporary tent camp at Kara Tepe, near the island’s port of Mytilene, is ready to take in at least 5,000 people, but officials have said that some of the migrants were reluctant to move to the new camp as they hoped to leave the island.
“The operation will continue until all those who are on the streets are sheltered,” a police official said, declining to be named.
Early on Wednesday, only 1,200 had moved voluntarily but late in the evening, large groups of migrants carrying their belongings started streaming in.
By early Thursday the Kara Tepe tent camp housed 1,800 and 56 migrants had been found COVID-19 positive, a government official said.
Government ministers have said authorities would continue “for some more days in good faith and communication” to convince the migrants to enter the new camp, expecting their transfer would be completed within a few days.