Border Ecologies Network

Smouldering Grounds: Fire as Symptom and Actant at the Migrant Camp of Moria

Author: Dimitra Andritsou
Region: Lesvos, Aegean Sea, Turkey – Greece
Image: Image credit

The migrant camp of Moria, at the frontier island of Lesvos, Greece, operates as one of the main carceral pillars of the EU’s border regime. While there has been extensive literary as well as media engagement with the camp, often unfolding in contested and ‘spectacular’ visual as well as discursive modes, one defining phenomenon has been largely overlooked: fire. Since its establishment in 2013, more than one hundred fires have been reported to have broken out in and around the camp. These conflagrations, which in turn affect and (re)define the existence of the camp and of the people therein contained, are a symptom of various intersecting phenomena: chronic overcrowding, failing humanitarian infrastructures and predatory corporate interests, acts of protest against deplorable living conditions, as well as prolonged droughts and heatwaves across Southern Europe. As a result, the camp can be said to exist in a constant state of smouldering: a precarious and highly volatile condition of slow, flameless burning, that can quickly erupt into sudden outbursts. Smouldering Grounds, the ongoing output of this research project, operates as an investigative tool that records reports of fires gathered from social media, official accounts, and sources living inside of the camp into four interactive formats – an archive, timeline, map, and media archive. As a public repository, it endeavours to highlight the political urgency of the phenomenon, as well as to prompt further research and (legal) action.