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Greek police begin relocating asylum seekers to a new camp

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The local representative of the UN refugee agency welcomed the move.

As long as it is peaceful, we believe it is a good move, given that here on the street it is a risk to safety, to public health and not its dignity, which we all need, said Astrid Castelein, head of the UNHCRs office in Lesbos.

The infamous poor Moria camp burned last week in fires that Greek authorities said were deliberately set up by a small group of camp residents angry at the blocking restrictions imposed after a coronavirus outbreak.

The fires have left more than 1,200 people in need of emergency shelter. The vast majority have been sleeping soundly near a road leading from Moria to the island capital of Mytilene, setting up makeshift shelters made of sheets, blankets, reeds and cardboard.

The new camp consists of large family tents set up in a seaside field. As of Wednesday evening, it had a capacity of about 8,000 people, according to the UN refugee agency, but only about 1,100 mostly vulnerable people had entered.

New arrivals are tested for the coronavirus, recorded and a tent set up.

This is an operation to protect public health and with a clear humanitarian content, police said in a statement.

She said 450 people had been relocated to Kara Tepe on Thursday morning and 250 of them had already entered the new camp after passing a rapid coronavirus test. The rest waited to enter, while more people waited to arrive.

Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF, said Greek police were stopping its staff on the island from entering a clinic it had set up there.

We are the only medical organization in that particular area, but we still do not have access! MSF Greece wrote on Twitter. Many people need medical help but we can not reach them. Why are they stopping us?

Six Afghans, including two minors, were arrested on suspicion of causing fires in recent weeks in Moria. The flames erupted after isolation orders were issued during a general blockade of the camp, when 35 people came out positive for the coronavirus.

Moria had a capacity of just over 2,700 people, but more than 12,500 people had lived in and around it when it burned. The camp and its poor conditions were held by critics as a symbol of Europe’s failed migration policies.

Greece has long called for more solidarity from other European Union countries, saying the burden of continental migration should not be left on its shoulders simply because of its geographical location on the EU’s southeastern border.

Some countries have said they will take some of those who had been to Moria, but all vowed to take only some of the 406 unaccompanied teenagers and children who had lived there. The minors were taken to northern Greek territory a day after Moria was destroyed.

Germany, however, said earlier this week it would receive 1,553 refugees from Greek islands who had already been granted asylum. On Wednesday evening, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told Germany’s ARD television that his country would accept up to 15 refugees.

Belgium has offered to relocate between 100 and 150 refugees, mostly families with children, single mothers or wives, while pledging last week to take 12 of the unaccompanied minors.

Becatoros reported from Athens. Geir Moulson in Berlin and Samuel Petrequin in Brussels contributed.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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