Fire at migrant camp on Greek island of Samos

A major fire broke out Sunday evening at the Vathy migrant camp on the Greek island of Samos, AFP journalists on site reported.

But as the fire still burned, the mayor of Samos, Girgos Stantzos, told AFP that the site had been entirely evacuated. A number of migrants, including several children in tears, could be seen gathered at a car park near the camp.

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The firefighters using five engines fought the blaze, which the migration ministry said late Sunday was under control.

“There is no danger for those who are still there because the fire broke out in abandoned sheds in the western side of the camp,” said a ministry statement.

The camp, due for closure at the end of the month, was still housing 300 people awaiting transfer Monday to a new “closed” camp opened this weekend by Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi.

The new Samos facility opened on Saturday is the first of five such camps, which are opposed by rights groups who say the tight access measures are too restrictive.

A double barbed wire fence surrounds the 12,000-square-metre camp, which is also installed with surveillance cameras, x-ray scanners and magnetic doors.

It also includes a detention centre for migrants whose asylum claims have been rejected and who are to be sent back to Turkey.

Campaigners had long denounced conditions at Vathy camp on Samos.

Located on one of the Aegean islands taking in migrants arriving from nearby Turkey, between 2015 and 2016 it sheltered nearly 7,000 asylum seekers. It was only built to take in 680 people.

A year ago, the overcrowded camp at Moria, on the nearby Greek island of Lesbos went up in flames, destroyed in two fires that in quick succession that left 13,000 without shelter for several days.

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