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Thousands of migrants are evacuated from Greek island of Lesbos

Thousands of migrants are evacuated from Greek island of Lesbos after coronavirus outbreak hit overcrowded camp that was then ravaged by fire ‘set by youths’

  • Over 700 people are set to sail to the Greek mainland aboard a ferry on Monday 
  • Some 2,500 refugees and asylum seekers on island are to be relocated overall 
  • It comes three weeks after the sprawling Moria camp on the island burned down 
  • The raging fire left more than 12,000 asylum seekers homeless on September 8

Hundreds of refugees are being transferred from the Greek island of Lesbos tonight in a bid to reduce chronic overcrowding that caused hardship and fanned tensions with locals.

Over 700 people are set to sail to the Greek mainland aboard a ferry on Monday organisers said while another group will leave on Thursday.

Some 2,500 refugees and asylum seekers are to be relocated overall, following coronavirus tests, according to the migration ministry. 

It comes three weeks after the sprawling Moria camp on the island burned down leaving more than 12,000 asylum seekers homeless on September 8.

The fire broke out shortly after more than 30 people there tested positive for coronavirus. 

Hundreds of refugees are being transferred from the island of Lesbos to reduce chronic overcrowding that caused hardship and fanned tensions with locals. Pictured: Migrants stand in a queue to embark on  a ferry

Over 700 people (some pictured) are set to sail to the Greek mainland aboard a ferry on Monday organisers said while another group will leave on Thursday

Some 2,500 refugees and asylum seekers are to be relocated overall (some of the group being transferred today), following coronavirus tests, according to the migration ministry

Migrants – most of them wearing face masks – gather outside the temporary refugee camp in Kara Tepe as they wait to depart from Lesbos

It comes three weeks after the sprawling Moria camp on the island burned down (the remains of the camp, pictured) leaving more than 12,000 asylum seekers homeless on September 8

Six Afghan youths are on trial for arson in connection to the fire. They deny the charges.

The Moria camp was notorious for overcrowding, poor sanitation and ethnic gang violence.

Also Monday, Greek police said they had identified 33 aid workers who allegedly facilitated illegal migration to Lesbos.

A Greek police source later said the ‘preliminary’ investigation was still under way.

A police statement said the suspects, who worked for four non-governmental organisations, were part of ‘an organised network’ created to ‘systematically’ facilitate illegal migration to the island.

Migrants – most of whom are wearing face masks to protect against the spread of coronavirus – wait ahead of their transfer

A boy looks at policemen as he waits to enter a bus from Kara Tepe refugee camp for the port of Mytilene today

Migrants enter a bus from Kara Tepe refugee camp for the port of Mytilene ahead of their ferry today

Migrants enter a military truck from Kara Tepe refugee camp for the port of Mytilene before they boarded a ferry today

Refugees wearing face masks are pictured queuing to board buses taking them to the port of Mytilene

Refugees wait to board buses from Kara Tepe camp. Families with young children are pictured

Refugees and migrants from the destroyed Moria camp wait to board buses to the port

Refugees and migrants – some of whom are young children – from the destroyed Moria camp board a bus to the port

Two other foreign nationals – identified by state TV ERT as an Afghan and an Iranian – were also part of the alleged operation, the police said.

No information was given on the aid groups in question, the identities of the suspects, or whether any were already in custody. 

Police said the alleged operation was active from at least June, ‘providing substantial assistance to organised migrant-smuggling networks’ by helping direct migrant boats to shore safely.

Migrants stand in a queue to board a ferry upon their departure from Lesbos island for mainland Greece

Refugees and migrants get ready to board a bus to the port. A ferry will later take them to mainland Greece

Migrants wait in a queue to get on board a ferry which will take them from Lesbos island to mainland Greece

Meanwhile, Germany has offered to take 1,500 asylum seekers from Greece, including former Moria residents.

For its part France has offered to take in 500 minors from the camp.

Authorities and local residents on Lesbos had long campaigned for the immediate removal of most of the asylum seekers.

After the camp burned down, a makeshift tent facility was hurriedly erected to house some 9,500 people.

But the temporary camp, on a hill overlooking the sea, is ill-equipped to handle winter conditions.

The government is now in talks to build a smaller permanent camp on the island. 

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