Names marked with an asterisk * have been changed to protect identities.
Police on the Greek island of Lesbos have launched an operation to recover thousands of refugees and migrants who have slept hard after their camp was destroyed by fire.
Officers on Thursday morning woke people up in their tents to lead them to a temporary center that was quickly set up after Europe’s largest camp for asylum seekers in Moria burned down last week.
The new Kara Tepe camp near the island’s capital Mytilene was set up on a former military shooting range and is close to the remains of the Moria site.
Rebel police and police cars were parked on both sides of a street where thousands fleeing the Moria camp have lived.
Quietly, with the sound of children crying, and under an already hot sun, people folded their blankets, picked up bags containing the things they had saved from the fire, and dismantled their tents.
Women and children with bundles on their backs were seen gathered by a barricade that police had set up on the road.
Some mothers pushed their babies in prams up the road as other refugees took shelter from the morning sun in the shade of a large building or washed with water bottles on the roads.
“The goal is to protect public health,” police spokesman Theodoros Chronopoulos told AFP news agency, confirming that “an operation is under way” which “responds to humanitarian targets.”
But Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which opened an emergency clinic in the area, said it was prevented from accessing its facility during the night as rumors of a police operation spread.
“A police operation is underway to take refugees to the new camp. This should not prevent medical attention,” MSF complained on Twitter.
More than 12,000 people, including entire families with the elderly and newborns, were left homeless as fire broke out through the overcrowded and unhygienic Moria camp – built five years ago at the height of Europe’s refugee crisis – on the night of 8 September.
Thousands have slept under tarpaulins or tents by the roadside and in parking lots in closed supermarkets since the fire.
Late on Wednesday, about 1,000 tents, each capable of accommodating between eight and ten people, had been erected at the new site.
The atmosphere on Thursday morning was calm with people exhausted from spending a week on the streets. Families collected their belongings, some pushed them into large bins or supermarket carts in preparation for the move.
At the start of the operation, single men were not allowed to enter the new camp.
Farhad * is 20 and alone in Greece after fleeing war in Afghanistan.
Although he was allowed to enter, he told Al Jazeera that he did not want to enter Kara Tepe.
“I’ve been in Moria for nine months and again, if we go into camp, [maybe] it will also be for a year. I’m losing my youth and just waiting. “
Other families have accepted their new reality.
“We hear there is food and water there,” said Abdul *, who has five children.
His family is tired of living on the streets, waiting for help that never seems to arrive, and believes there is no other option.
Six young Afghans have been arrested in connection with the incident, four of whom were brought before a judge in Lesbos on Wednesday.
Medical tents were to be set up, and two quarantine zones were planned for the many dozens of people who have tested positive for coronavirus.
“We have seen many people come in dangerous suits trying to talk to people, to convince them to go to the camps. People are moving. Not everyone is moving, but people are moving,” Al Jazera’s Stefanie Dekker said, reporting from Lesvos.
“Many people we spoke to this morning still do not want to go. They say they hear the situation is bad, they want to be stuck in there called a prison.
“The provision from the authorities is that they have to move to the camp and if they do not want to do it willingly … they will use the police to move people heavily.”
The Greek Ministry of Migration said on Tuesday that about 1,200 people had entered the new camp.
Aid groups said a few hundred more arrived Wednesday, forced by exhaustion after sleeping hard under a hot sun for a week.
The UN refugee agency has called on Greece to speed up asylum processes on Lesbos.
“The idea is not that people stay forever on the island of Lesbos, but that processes are accelerated so that people can gradually and properly travel” to the capital Athens or elsewhere on the mainland, UN chief Greece agency Philippe Leclerc told reporters.
Meanwhile, anger is growing among local Lesbos residents who complain crowded on the island affecting its tourism opportunities.
“We have two human dramas here. Unfortunately, it is the drama about the migrants who live here that is constantly talked about, and never the locals who have gone through a very hard time since 2015 and are very frustrated. These people should be placed in a controlled camp and far away from the locals, ”said villager Moria Stratis Kokkinellis to Al Jazeera.
Greek Police Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said this week that half of the refugees and migrants on Lesbos should be able to leave before Christmas and “the rest for Easter”.
With reporting by Katy Fallon in Lesbos.