“There are thousands of people just sitting on the main road,” said Nick Powell, an Australian aid worker who witnessed the fire and its aftermath, and who was helping to provide food to the survivors on Wednesday.
It is still unclear where they will be taken. George Koumoutsakos, Greece’s deputy migration minister, said during a Wednesday news conference that efforts were being made to rehouse around 3,000 people in new tents.
The priority was to rehouse the most vulnerable, with some 400 unaccompanied minors being moved to “safe zones” and hotels, he said.
Since 2015, Moria has filled with an influx of migrants seeking to reach northern Europe. That year, more than 850,000 mainly Syrian and Afghan refugees and migrants made their way by boat from Turkey to nearby Greek islands like Lesbos, hoping to travel further north. A further 300,000 have arrived in the years since.
In 2015, they passed quickly through Moria camp when Europe largely tolerated the movement of migrants. But in 2016, Europe changed tack, blocking the onward movement of migrants to countries like Germany and leaving thousands stranded in squalid Greek camps like Moria, which soon became overcrowded.
Since then, Moria has been considered an emblem of Europe’s hardening approach to migrants in the aftermath of the 2015 crisis. Though the camp was built for 3,000 residents, its population has swelled at times to more than 20,000. Residents lived mostly in cramped and overcrowded tents with limited access to toilets, showers and health care.
Through the European Union, other European countries provided Greece with money to care for its refugee population. But European leaders refused to allow many of them to leave Greek camps like Moria for sanctuary elsewhere in Europe.