Protests like these have been taken place in and around Moria camp for some time now as inhabitants demand better living conditions and transfers to the mainland  | Photo: EPA/Stratis Balaskas
Protests like these have been taken place in and around Moria camp for some time now as inhabitants demand better living conditions and transfers to the mainland | Photo: EPA/Stratis Balaskas

Two migrants were shot and lightly injured after apparently breaking quarantine on Wednesday, reported news agencies. The assailant or assailants evaded capture, the police said.

Greek police said that gunshots were fired on Wednesday, April 22, into Greece’s largest migrant camp, Moria, on the Aegean island of Lesbos. According to reports in Greek newspaper Ekathimerini, the possible assailant or assailants "evaded capture."

The shots took place as police had been called to quell demonstrations taking place in and around the camp. Hundreds of mainly male migrant protesters were angry that the Greek authorities were choosing to transfer only a few thousand of the most vulnerable people out of the camps to the mainland. The transfer was agreed upon in a bid to get the migrants out of infection's way should the coronavirus spread through the overcrowded camps.

The protesters demanded that they too be transferred to less crowded facilities on the Greek mainland. According to the news agency dpa they held up placards demanding "freedom for all" and said that they were being "exposed to COVID-19."

The two migrants injured by the gunshots were taken to Lesbos' hospital "as a precaution," reported Ekahtimerini, adding that "no further detail was supplied."

Breaking quarantine?

On Thursday morning, the news agency AFP reported that the injured migrants came from Iran and Afghanistan respectively and were shot because they were "openly trying to break the quarantine" and lockdown measures imposed on inhabitants of the camp, as well as residents throughout Greece.

However, later, dpa reported news from Greece's public broadcaster ERT,  which quoted police sources which suggested the migrants had been shot about seven kilometers away from Moria, with a hunting rifle. The migrants, claimed another Greek website Stonisi, that they had been "going for a walk," when the incident occurred.

Although the  motive for this attack has not been clarified, dpa also reported that in March anti-migrant extremists had been known to attack migrants and humanitarian workers on the island. They also said that theft had increased around the Moria camp in recent years and is often reported. Again though, there is no clear link to what the migrants may, or may not, have been doing when they were shot at.

Humanitarian organizations like the UN refugee agency UNHCR and Doctors without Borders (MSF) have long warned that were the virus to take hold in the overcrowded migrant camps, it would be a disaster, not just for the camp's inhabitants, but also for the rest of Europe too. There are still more than 18,000 migrants present in and around Moria, in a camp which was originally conceived for about 6,000.

Fears of an outbreak in the camps

According to UNHCR data, there are still around 38,900 migrants and asylum seekers waiting on the Greek islands, most in conditions which have been described as "appalling," "unhygienic" and "inhumane." No new arrivals were registered last week, but fewer people are also being taken to the mainland than in the middle of March. Authorities plan to move around 1,500 of the most vulnerable on April 25 but tens of thousands remain.

In the last few months, Greek authorities have transferred around 11,000 of the most vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers off the islands. The majority of those had the best chance of gaining asylum in Greece or the rest of the EU. 

The make-up of the migrant population on the islands is now overwhelmingly people coming from Afghanistan (49%), Syria (19%) and Somalia (6%). Around 44% of the adult migrant population are male, with just 23% female. A further 19% are made up of boys and 14% girls.

Last week Luxembourg and Germany began transferring small groups of unaccompanied children from the islands to their countries. Further transfers are planned, in the coming weeks and months, to a total of eight EU countries who have pledged to help.






 

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