UPDATE 2-Greece police move Lesbos migrants into tent camp after fire

17 Sep 2020 / 18:56 H.

    (Updates number of migrants, adds govt official comment)

    ATHENS, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Greek police moved hundreds of migrants stranded on the island of Lesbos into a new temporary tent camp on Thursday, more than a week after a fire razed the country's biggest migrant camp, where they had been staying.

    The police operation launched early on Thursday including 70 female officers, was intended to provide migrants with shelter, food and to protect public health, government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters.

    "The operation began with many officers in white body suits, things are calm and migrants are slowly streaming into the new camp," a Reuters witness said.

    The fire that gutted the Moria facility a week ago left over 12,000 people, most of them refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and various African countries, without shelter, proper sanitation or access to food and water.

    Authorities said the fire was started by migrants. No one was hurt.

    The new temporary tent camp at Kara Tepe, near the island's port of Mytilene, is ready to take in at least 8,000 people, but

    officials have said that some of the migrants were reluctant to move to the new camp as they hoped to leave the island.

    Groups of migrants carrying their luggage in shopping carts walked to the camp, Reuters images showed.

    "The operation will continue until all those who are on the streets are sheltered," a police official said, declining to be named.

    Early on Wednesday, only 1,200 had moved voluntarily but more streamed in later in the day. By Thursday afternoon the Kara Tepe tent camp housed 3,000 and 77 migrants had been found COVID-19 positive, a government official said.

    Petsas said "it was a matter of a few days" for migrants to be completely resettled.

    Government ministers have said authorities would continue "for some more days in good faith and communication" to convince the migrants to enter the new camp, expecting their transfer would be completed within a few days. (Reporting by Vassilis Triantafyllou and Lefteris Papadimas, Writing by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Robert Birsel and Tomasz Janowski)

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