Although unconfirmed by official sources, individuals from Moria Refugee Camp in Lesvos, Greece and local residents claim that around 10:40pm last night on November 24, 2016, a woman and her two children burned alive inside their tent in the family compound within the camp. After a bottle of cooking gas exploded inside their nylon tent, the flammable shelter full of other acrylic and polyester material burned rapidly to the ground with its inhabitants trapped inside. Migrants from Moria Camp are currently congregating outside the enclosure and searching for other means of temporary shelter.
This event clearly reveals the inadequacy of temporary shelter on the island. While this is not the first fire that has spread throughout the camp, this senseless loss of human life was a preventable shortcoming of organizations allegedly working to alleviate these conditions in the camps. Now three lives may be lost due to the failure to address these issues with actions rather than checks on a meeting clipboard. While blame cannot accurately be placed on these teams that work day and night to decipher the labrynth of red tape that is Lesvos- an island of purgatory where asylum-seekers wait to either be forcibly returned to the places from which they risked everything to flee or to move onward in their pursuit of international protection- blame can be placed on the mere failure to react.
Regardless of the truth surrounding last night’s event, the urgency of the matter lies in the very fact that it is believable. Crammed living spaces, highly flammable and unreliable shelters, and little to no legal and medical aid all amount to lives constantly at the mercy of preventable accidents with deadly consequences. In light of this event and the concerns it highlights, it should be remembered there is a European Court of Justice ruling from 2011 still in effect that forbids Dublin returns to Greece because of the inadequate living conditions inside refugee camps.
-Kayla Halsey with live updates from Scott Hamilton in Lesvos, Greece