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Lesbos: Hundreds test positive for Covid-19 after migrant camp fire

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image copyrightEPA
image captionThe new Kara Tepe camp in Lesbos was hastily built after a nearby migrant camp burnt down

Hundreds of migrants and refugees at a new temporary camp on the Greek island of Lesbos have tested positive for coronavirus, officials say.

More than 240 people returned a positive result after 7,000 tests were conducted at the Kara Tepe camp in recent days.

The new tent city was built after a fire destroyed the overcrowded Moria camp earlier this month.

More than 12,000 people were left homeless by the blaze.

Four Afghan asylum seekers have been charged with starting the fire on 8 September. The Greek government has said they were protesting against lockdown measures introduced after a coronavirus outbreak at the site.

What's the latest?

On Monday, a government spokesman confirmed that 243 people had tested positive for Covid-19 after being moved from the Moria camp to the temporary Kara Tepe facility.

The spokesman added that the average age of those who had tested positive was 24, and most of these were asymptomatic.

Dozens of police and staff at the new camp have also been tested but returned negative results.

media captionThe BBC's Jean Mackenzie spent time speaking to people at the camp just six months ago and reflects on her experiences there

Since the blaze levelled the Moria camp two weeks ago, around 9,000 migrants and refugees have been resettled on the island.

Those who fled the fire had mostly been sleeping rough with a lack of food, water and shelter.

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The Kara Tepe camp, which is housing the vast majority of the migrants and refugees, was built on a former military firing range near the devastated old camp. It is also near the island's main town Mytilene.

The Greek authorities launched a campaign over the weekend to encourage those who had been left homeless by the fire to move to the new camp, and thousands complied.

But many remain reluctant to stay on Lesbos, as Moria was overcrowded and squalid. They hope to go elsewhere in Europe, especially Germany.

image copyrightEPA
image captionThousands of migrants and refugees have been rehoused since the fire two weeks ago

Meanwhile, Greece's Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said those responsible for the fire would "serve their sentence in Greece and then be deported".

He added that a "modern, safe and respectable" new camp would be built on the island, despite the fact many local officials oppose such a move.

What other reaction has there been?

Elsewhere, thousands of people protested in Germany on Sunday and called for the European Union to take in migrants who had been affected by the fire.

Demonstrators gathered in the capital, Berlin, as well as in Cologne, Munich and Leipzig and held signs reading "Leave no one behind" and "Shame on EU".

image copyrightReuters
image captionThe Lesbos fire prompted protests across Germany over the weekend

Germany agreed to take in 1,500 migrants after the blaze, but the protesters called for further action and for more migrants and refugees to be taken in.

"We can't close our eyes and turn our backs and walk away from them," Tima Kurdi, who spoke at the Berlin demonstration, said. "People are people, no matter where we come from."

An image showing Tima Kurdi's three-year-old nephew, Alan, after his body washed up on a beach in Turkey became one of the defining images of the 2015 migrant crisis and sparked global calls for action.

Dozens also took to the streets for a smaller protest in the French capital, Paris.

"The situation in the camps is dire," one demonstrator, Nikolai Posner, told the AFP news agency. He called for the French government to do more to respond to the situation in Lesbos.

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  • Lesbos: Greek police move migrants to new camp after Moria fire