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Moria camp fire: France and Germany urge EU states to welcome migrants

Migrants flee from the Moria refugee camp during a fire, on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece, on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020.
Migrants flee from the Moria refugee camp during a fire, on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece, on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris
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France and Germany urged other European union member states on Thursday to open their doors to unaccompanied minors from the devastated Moria migrant camp in Greece.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters during a press conference on Thursday that both Berlin and Paris will acquiesce to a Greek request to host unaccompanied minors who previously lived in the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.

A major fire ripped through the overcrowded camp on Wednesday destroying 80 per cent of the facility and displacing the 12,600 migrants who lived there, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

The camp was original designed to house 3,000 migrants.

Merkel urged other member states to join the initiative, stressing that "it's a European problem."

Meanwhile, Macron said following a meeting of the Med7 — EU Mediterranean countries including Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, and Spain — that Paris will show "concrete solidarity" and "take our responsibilities by offering to take care of unaccompanied minors."

Neither Macron nor Merkel said, however, how many unaccompanied minors they will welcome but the IOM said on Thursday that it had transferred 406 of them from the island to mainland Greece.

The Netherlands has already offered to take "50 minor unaccompanied foreign nationals and 50 people in a family relationship with minor children who were affected by the fires on Lesbos," deputy Justice and Security minister Ankie Broekers-Knol said in a statement.

"Anyone who sees this thinks this is terrible. And in this exceptional situation, according to the government — and myself too — exceptional steps are needed," she went on.

Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on Thursday that the vast majority of the migrants will remain in Lesbos and be put in emergency accommodations.

Authorities said the fires were started deliberately on Tuesday and Wednesday nights by residents protesting their confinement at the overcrowded camp. The camp was locked down due to a COVID-19 outbreak this month.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told reporters following the Med7 meeting that "Europe must move from words of solidarity to a policy of acts of solidarity. We must put the migration crisis at the heart of our discussions and be much more concrete".