A huge fire has broken out during the night of Monday 14th October in the hotspot refugee camp on Samos, Greece.
Ravaging huge areas of ‘the Jungle’, the informal expansion area of the camp, the fire destroyed tents and shelters and forced hundreds of people to exit the camp, seeking safety in the city.
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Coming just 2 weeks after a fire in the Moria hotspot on Lesvos took the life of one mother, this second incident is yet more proof that the massively overcrowded conditions in which asylum seekers live are neither safe nor sustainable.
The hotspot camp on Samos currently supports 5,700 asylum seekers, but with capacity for just 675. In recent weeks, a huge increase in arrivals has put even greater constrain on the asylum services and NGOs working in the field.
In the late evening, a fight broke out in the city centre between Afghan and Syrian communities in which 3 persons were seriously injured. Rumours that one of the victims had died in the fight led to an escalation of the conflict inside the hotspot. Police responded with tear gas and a temporary lock-down of the camp.
The fire is thought to have started after a gas bottle exploded. The blaze quickly spread, engulfing tents, homes and laying wreck to the surrounding olive groves and parts of the formal camp.
Hundreds of asylum seekers left the camp, seeking safety in the streets of the city, where many spent the night. NGOs and voluntary groups opened their centres to receive families but were quickly overwhelmed by the numbers.
In the meantime, police and firefighters rushed to the scene of the fire and extinguished the blaze.
As camp residents slowly returned home, many were faced with no place to stay, no belongings, and an even tougher future ahead. NGOs and camp authorities are currently assessing the damage in the camp.
As winter approaches fast, efforts to winterise the camp now become more critical than ever. NGOs are worried that without proper shelter, many are risking their lives over the coming cold months.