Syrian Refugee Sets Self on Fire at Camp on Chios Island

Αssociated Press

FILE - A baby stands outside a makeshift tent as migrants and refugees sleep at the port of the Greek island of Chios, Wednesday, April 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

CHIOS, Greece - Greek police say a Syrian refugee suffered severe burns after setting himself on fire at a camp on the eastern Aegean Sea island of Chios.

Police say the motive for the 29-year-old man's action was not immediately clear.

A police statement said the refugee poured a flammable liquid over himself and set it on fire on March 30. A policeman who tried to help him suffered burns on his face and hands.

The man has been hospitalized with burns covering 88 percent of his body. The Syrian, who arrived at the camp last week, had started the process of applying for asylum in Greece.

That’s as a European Union swap deal with Turkey remained suspended because of the overwhelming numbers seeking to stay in Greece or still harboring hopes of moving on to other European Union countries which closed their borders to them.

About 14,000 migrants seeking asylum live in camps on Greece's eastern islands, having crossed the sea from Turkey. Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized conditions in the camps and as Mayors on eastern Aegean islands have complained the government left it to them to deal with the numbers.

According to the website, the 29-year-old had been in the camp for around a week after arriving in Greece by boat from Turkey. Local doctors who ordered him to be transferred to a specialized unit in Athens. One officer sustained injuries to his face and hands during the effort and is also undergoing treatment.

Other refugees interviewed by said that the 29-year-old had been highly agitated ever since arriving at the camp and had protested his detention.

The detention centers and camps housing the refugees and migrants, including some 50,000 on the mainland, have experienced violence, drug use and suicides and growing despair as the residents have no hope of moving on, little hope of staying in Greece, and fear being returned to Turkey or to the strife-and-war torn countries they fled, such as Syria’s civil war. (Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)