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Wildfire breaks out near refugee camps on Greek island of Lesbos


Nicolas Economou / NurPhoto / AFP

John Burger - published on 09/24/18 - updated on 09/24/18

Migrants continue to arrive from war-torn areas of Near East

The Greek island of Lesbos, where Pope Francis visited with refugees from the Near East and Africa in 2016, has seen the outbreak of a wildfire near a camp with thousands of migrants and refugees.

The fire broke out near Camp Moria, where Francis was joined by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in a meeting with refugees two years ago. An estimated 9,000 persons live inside the camp and in makeshift settlements surrounding it.

The fire came a day after Greek authorities began relocating people from the island, away from conditions described by aid groups as overcrowded, unsanitary and dangerous, according to The New York Times.

Hundreds of refugees still arrive on Greek islands daily, according to the United Nations refugee agency. More than half of all new arrivals to Greece during the first eight months of 2018 went to Lesbos, the agency said. The majority are from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, the Times said.

A doctor from the French organization Doctors Without Borders described increasing cases of self-harm and attempted suicides among young migrants.

“These children come from countries that are at war, where they have experienced extreme levels of violence and trauma,” Declan Barry, the medical coordinator in Greece for Doctors Without Borders, said. “Rather than receiving care and protection in Europe, they are instead subjected to ongoing fear, stress and episodes of further violence, including sexual violence.”

Video posted on social media showed plumes of smoke in distant hills and helicopters racing to dump water on the fires. Scream of children in the camp could be heard, suggesting to some that the incident may have brought back dark memories of what they had experienced in their war-torn countries.

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