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Greek police arrest five over Lesbos fire, migrants resist new camp

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LESBOS, Greece (Reuters) – Greek police have detained five migrants over a fire that flattened the Moria refugee camp on the ground, the government said on Tuesday, as thousands of displaced people refused to move to a new facility and sought to leave the island. Lesbos.

Authorities were looking for one more person, said Civil Defense Minister Michalis Chrisohoidis.

More than 12,000 people, mostly refugees from Afghanistan, Africa and Syria, were left homeless, without adequate sanitation or access to food and water after a fire broke out in the overcrowded Moria migrant camp last Wednesday.

Greek authorities believe the fire was deliberately ignited by camp residents after quarantine measures were imposed following the discovery of COVID cases in the country, but the incident put the migrant issue back on the European agenda.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis reiterated a call for more help from the European Union, which has struggled to find a unified approach to the migrant crisis on its borders, saying it was time for tangible solidarity from Europe.

European Council President Charles Michel would visit Lesbos later on Tuesday, and government officials in Berlin said Germany could take up to 1,500 people trapped by the fire, in addition to the 100-150 Berlin has already agreed to take over. But a broader solution has remained elusive.

Mitsotakis said a new permanent reception facility would be built in Lesbos with EU support, and that the infamous and overcrowded Moria camp is a thing of the past.

However, on land in Lesbos, thousands, including children, were still sleeping soundly a week after the blaze.

Officials were struggling to overcome resistance from migrants hoping to be allowed to leave the island, who fear that life in temporary shelters being set up would not be better than the conditions they went through in Moria.

Migrants wearing masks as a precaution against coronavirus lined up in front of the camp gates to get water, food and blankets from aid workers. The task was complicated by the need for COVID-19 tests, with at least 25 positive cases found among IDPs.

The big concern is that although many thousands of places are available and will continue to expand, there are still fewer than 1,000 that have been occupied, said Luciano Calestini, head of the UNICEF Greece office in Greece.

Only a few hundred migrants, mostly unaccompanied minors, have been displaced outside Lesbos. Greek officials have said there will be no mass transfers and all asylum seekers will have to go to the new shelter.

Additional reporting by Angeliki Koutantou and Renee Maltezou in Athens, Emma Farge in Geneva; Written by Renee Maltezou and James Mackenzie; Edited by Mike Collett-White

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