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Refugee support workers on Lesbos warn of ‘chaos’ on the island as riot police are sent in

REFUGEE support workers on the Greek island of Lesbos warned today that the situation for the thousands of people made homeless after Moria refugee camp burnt down three days ago remains dire.

“Earlier today the Greek government sent more riot cops and water cannon to the island,” Marie, an activist from the German refugee support charity Mare Liberum, told the Star this afternoon.

“There are pretty precise rumours that the refugees have been forbidden from leaving the island because their asylum procedures are unclear.

“The situation is absolutely chaotic. One of the worst things is that fascists are trying to prevent activists from reaching the people with water, food and supplies.

“A lot of the refugees are constantly on the move. They have barely slept. They slept outside in woods, on the street last night.

“A lot of times the police are preventing them from moving. And many of the people, especially the children, are dehydrated. It’s really hot. And there’s just not enough infrastructure to provide everybody with basic things like food and water.”

Mission Lifeline — a German organisation supporting refugees on the island — tweeted images of children washing their eyes after reportedly being caught by tear gas fired by Greek riot police.

“We are in Europe, but it doesn’t look like it,” Mission Lifeline’s co-founder Axel Steier told the Star today.

“It looks more like a fascist state that puts people in internment camps without any reason and treats them worse than animals.”

The fire that burnt down Moria refugee camp, which was originally built for 2,000 asylum-seekers, has left 11,500 people without shelter or support from the authorities. Refugees staged a peaceful protest today afternoon demanding their freedom.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) yesterday urged all sides to refrain from actions or rhetoric that could heighten tensions.

“While authorities are working to find immediate shelter arrangements, UNHCR urges that long-term solutions need to be identified for refugees and asylum-seekers in Moria and other sites on the Greek islands,” the agency said in a statement today.

“The incidents at Moria demonstrate the long-standing need to take action to improve living conditions, alleviate overcrowding, improve security, infrastructure and access to services in all five reception centres on the Greek islands.”

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