fire
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  • A fire tore through Europe's largest migrant camp on Wednesday morning, forcing thousands of people to flee.
  • The blaze at Moria, on the Greek island of Lesbos, began at 2 a.m., Greek news agency ANA reported.
  • Photos and videos posted to social media show the extent of the blaze, as well as the aftermath seen in the light of day.
  • The camp was built in 2015 with a maximum capacity of 3,000 people, but as many as 20,000 called it home until Wednesday.
  • The police cordoned off the surrounding roads to stop people from going to the nearby towns, the BBC reported, and the mayor the island's largest town said police are guarding the migrants on a highway.
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A blaze tore through Europe's largest migrant camp on Wednesday morning, displacing as many as 20,000 refugees.

Images and videos posted to social media showed fires raging through Moria, a camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, at around 02:00 local time.

The exact cause of the fire is not yet known, but it began after clashes broke out when 35 refugees who recently tested positive for Covid-19 refused to isolate with their families, the Greek news agency ANA reported.

Shortly after news of the fire broke, Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, tweeted that 400 children had been evacuated to the Greek mainland.

The camp was built in 2015 with an maximum capacity of 3,000, but as of Wednesday, as many as 20,000 people had been living there, according to the charity Help Refugees.

At least 25 firefighters and 10 fire engines attended the blaze, The Guardian reported. The newspaper said migrants attempted to prevent authorities from extinguishing the fire.

Journalists on the ground reported that the whole camp was ablaze.

Police officers have cordoned off the roads surrounding the camp to stop migrants from going to the nearby towns, the BBC reported. Stratos Kytelis, the mayor of Mylinene — the largest town on Lesbos island — also said that officers were monitoring people on a highway.

"The fire spread inside and outside of the camp and has destroyed it," Kytelis told Skai radio. "There are more than 12,000 migrants being guarded by police on a highway."

Footage taken after dawn on Wednesday has lain bare the extent of the destruction.

The debate over how to address the growing number of migrants entering Europe is once again at the forefront of political discourse, as it was in 2015.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has seen a more migrants than ever flee their homes for Europe in recent months.

Greece — which, given its location, is one of the first destinations reached by migrants fleeing the Middle East and North Africa — has struggled to handle the growing number of migrants entering the country.

In August, Greece reportedly abandoned 1,000 refugees at the edge of its water territory, an act which is illegal under international law.

Both Greece and Hungary closed their borders to asylum seekers on February 29, citing safety concerns over the pandemic.

Thirty-five people at Moria have tested positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday. The first case, reported on August 2, prompted authorities to impose a lockdown and quarantines on the camp, Deutsche Welle reported.

Elsewhere in Europe, the UK is experiencing record numbers of migrant arrivals.

In August, 1,468 refugees arrived in the UK after making the crossing across the English Channel from France. The total number of arrivals to the UK has surpassed 5,000 in 2020 so far.

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