GREECE MIGRANTS UNREST.jpg
Migrants flee from the camp of Moria on Lesvos island, Greece, 19 September 2016. Migrants set fire to several parts of the camp which then spread causing hundreds of people to flee.
Photograph: EPA/STRATIS BALASKAS

A fire that forced thousands of people to flee a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos destroyed most of the camp but is now under control, eyewitnesses said Monday.

The blaze began after fires were apparently deliberately lit in the Moria camp, following a weekend of citizen and camp protests at the site.

Greek news agency ANA said the arson began because of fighting between different nationalities in the camp, while Athens-based newspaper Kathimerini said the fires were lit after rumours circulated that refugee deportations to Turkey were being planned.

Another newspaper, To Vima, said that fires were started both inside and outside the camp at various locations. No one has been reported injured in the blaze.

Rescue personnel first moved children to safety, before occupants were forced to flee the camp as the blaze spread. Many refugees then made their way to the island capital, Mytilini, some six kilometres away, where boats leave for Athens.

Camp occupants on the island have been demanding for some time to be allowed to travel to the Greek mainland, to escape overcrowded conditions in the Moria camp.

The situation for asylum seekers on Greece's Aegean islands continues to deteriorate. Many camps are too full and rioting and violent scuffles are a regular occurrence. Locals on Lesbos and Chios have protested against the camps in the last few days.

The Greek Council for Refugees says that 13,000 asylum seekers are currently residing on Lesbos, Kos, Chios, Leros and Samos.

The Moria camp, which was built to house 1,500, is currently home to 3,000 people.

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