The skeletal metal tent frames, their coverings and contents reduced to ash, poked out of the landscape. A twisted and blackened fan hung from what was once a ceiling. And everywhere, there were people, clinging to small bags of belongings or setting up makeshift beds on the side of the road, uncertain where to turn next.
These were the scenes in the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos after a major fire broke out Tuesday night, followed by another two the following night. Nearly all of the camp was destroyed in the fires, displacing 12,000 residents. But long before the fires, the situation in Moria had been dire for the tens of thousands of refugees and migrants who lived in squalid, overcrowded conditions that came to be emblematic of Europe’s broken migration system.
Since 2015, the camp on the tiny island has been filled with refugees and migrants who had risked everything to flee war and hardship for a better life, only to find themselves in limbo on the edge of Europe, waiting for asylum. Rights groups had warned that the site was a looming humanitarian crisis.
Now that crisis has arrived, and Greek and European authorities are scrambling to come up with a plan to find a new, temporary home for thousands of people, most of whom are Afghan refugees who had sought to reach northern Europe.
With nowhere to go after the first fire, thousands of people spread out mattresses on the side of the road to sleep Wednesday night, huddled under blankets alongside their meager belongings. That night, into Thursday, more fires broke out, burning down some of the last tents still standing.
While little remains of what was once Europe’s largest refugee camp, the problem of what to do with its thousands of residents has only begun.
A Greek firefighter trying to put out flames.
Migrants gathering during a food distribution.
Sleeping on the road near the Moria camp.
The aftermath of the fire.
Migrants washing up as fires continue to rage.
An aerial view of the burned camp.
Standing amid the rubble.
Walking through the burned camp.