A migrant reception center was burned down on Lesbos by unknown perpetrators last Monday | Photo: Reuters/E.Marcou
A migrant reception center was burned down on Lesbos by unknown perpetrators last Monday | Photo: Reuters/E.Marcou

A fire has damaged a community center for migrants and asylum-seekers run by volunteers on Greece’s Lesbos island. The blaze occurred amid a tense standoff between the EU and Turkey over the fate of millions.

A fire that broke out at a migrant community center on the island of Lesbos caused considerable damage to a warehouse but no injuries, Greece's firefighting service said on Sunday.  

It was the second fire at an installation built for migrants, after a reception center was burned down by unknown perpetrators last Monday. The warehouse, which contained furniture and electrical appliances, was completely destroyed, a firefighting service spokesman told the Associated Press.

An investigation into the fire is ongoing.

Lesbos, which lies just a few miles off the Turkish coast, currently hosts more than 21,000 migrants, most of them living in an overcrowded camp, Moria, which was originally intended to accommodate fewer than 3,000.

The island was the frontline of the 2015-2016 migrant crisis, when over 800,000 asylum-seekers fleeing war and persecution in the Middle East passed through on their way to Europe. Islanders say they are being forced to shoulder a disproportionate share of the migrant burden.

A tense standoff

The blaze came amid a tense standoff between the EU and Turkey over the fate of millions of migrants and asylum-seekers who are currently on Turkish territory.

Thousands of migrants headed for Turkey's land border with EU member Greece after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government announced earlier this month that it would no longer prevent people from crossing over to EU countries.

Greece has deployed riot police and border guards to repel people trying to enter the country.

The Greek border area has since seen violent confrontations between the migrants and Greek security forces, with officers in Greece firing tear gas to block the migrants and Turkish police firing tear gas back at their Greek counterparts.

Erdogan will travel to Brussels on Monday to talk with top EU officials about a 2016 Turkey-EU agreement on containing the refugee flows to Europe which has now collapsed. The two sides have accused each other of failing to respect their commitments.

sri/rc (AP, Reuters) 

First published: March 8, 2020

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