France, Germany to welcome refugees after Greek sanctuary is gutted by fire

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced his country and Germany are working together to find a solution to welcome migrants from the Greek island of Lesbos after Moria camp in the region was completely gutted by fires.

Moria was the largest refugee camp in Europe.

 

Macron said Thursday that he "hoped to include as many European countries as possible" in the response after the overcrowded Moria camp was devastated by massive fires on Wednesday.

 

"We are coordinating to offer a proposition, Germany and France, and we're trying to include a maximum of European countries, to welcome refugees and minors in particular, depending on the demands of the Greek government," Macron said during a speech in Corsica.

 

He said Europe had to stand in solidarity with Greece in face of "the terrible reality that is before us."

The details of the response will be finalized "in the coming hours," Macron added. On Thursday evening, the Med7 Summit will gather leaders of southern European countries in Porticcio, Corsica.

"What is happening in Moria is a humanitarian catastrophe," tweeted German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. "As quickly as possible, we have to clarify with the EU commission and other EU countries willing to help, how we can support Greece. This includes the distribution of those fleeing amongst those in the EU willing to accept them."

The fires that razed the camp were started by residents expressing "dissatisfaction" with coronavirus-related lockdown measures, Greek authorities believe.

Moria, which has been under lockdown after 35 people tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this week, was home to an estimated 13,000 people, more than six times its maximum capacity of 2,200 people. More than 4,000 children lived in the camp, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.

In a televised statement, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis declared a state of emergency on the island, condemning the rioters he said had started the fires that ravaged the camp.

"I recognize the difficult conditions. However, nothing can become an alibi for violent reactions to health checks. And, much more, for riots of this magnitude," said Mitsotakis. "The situation in Moria cannot continue because it is a matter of public health, humanity and national security at the same time."

The country's Minister for Migration and Asylum Panagiotis Mitarachis confirmed to CNN that the fire appeared to be deliberately lit, adding that a new "safer" and "more humane" facility is needed.

"It is clear that we need a new facility which is safer and offers more humane conditions and offers the appropriate capacity needed," he said.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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