Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Sunday announced that Greece will build a permanent migrant reception centre on Lesvos to replace the overcrowded refugee camp destroyed by a fire last week.
On Tuesday night, a fire broke out at Moria Camp on the island of Lesvos at approximately 2 am after clashes began when some of the 35 refugees who tested positive for Covid-19 refused to move into isolation with their families.
The island of Lesvos was declared in state of emergency for four months, by order of Deputy Civil Protection and Management Crises Minister Nikos Hardalias and the general secretary of civil protection Vassilis Papageorgiou.
The fire also pushed the migration issue back up the European agenda.
The Greek PM said the construction of a new reception centre on the island to replace the notoriously squalid and overcrowded Moria facility would be the chance to reset the policy behind handling migrant arrivals. “We want to turn this problem into an opportunity,” he told a news conference.
“Europe should be a lot more involved in the management of the new centre wherever we finally decide it should be,” Mitsotakis continued.
The head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State, Pope Francis also expressed “solidarity and closeness to all the victims of these dramatic events,” adding refugees who seek asylum in Europe should be given a “humane and dignified welcome.”
Speaking to worshippers attending Sunday’s prayer in St Peter’s Square in Rome, Pope Francis recalled visiting the Moria camp during an emotional April 16, 2016 day trip to Lesbos that ended with Francis bringing 12 Syrian refugees back with him to Rome aboard the papal plane.
“In recent days a series of fires have devastated the refugee camp of Moria, on the island of Lesvos, leaving thousands of people without a refuge, even if it was precarious,” the Pope said.
Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis also called for the immediate deportation of any residents of camp who may have contributed to the fire.
Officials are worried about the potential uncontrolled spread of the novel virus from the Moria camp which had been placed under quarantine before it burned down.