By: Ishita Goel
August 3 2023
The video showing migrants lighting fires is from 2019, and it is unrelated to the recent wildfires in Greece.
What is the claim?
A Facebook post with a screenshot of a post on the platform X (formerly Twitter) by former Brexit Party parliamentary candidate Jim Ferguson is going viral. The video in Ferguson's post shows a group of people running in a field and lighting fire in shrubs with overlaid text at the bottom which reads: "Fires in Greece." The caption of Ferguson's X post (Archived version), also pictured in the Facebook post, reads "Climate Change. Yeah definitely that. Not masses of #IllegalMigrants setting fire to Greece. #ClimateScam coming to a country near you. #WEF2030Agenda Style."
We also found another post on X, which carried the same video with the inlaid text "Refugees start fires in Greece." Thefootageo also carried a place and a date. The X user wrote, "Most of the fires in the Greek islands were started by arsonists. On the mainland of Greece migrants are responsible." The archive of a few links is here and here.
What are the facts?
We found the video has been viral since 2019. Further, using the date and place stated in the video, we found that it shows a clash between police and the migrants.
We found several credible news organizations reporting the incident, such as AP News, Reuters, New York Times, and BBC.
On April 5, 2019, New York Times reported that hundreds of migrants and refugees gathered in a field next to a refugee camp in northern Greece, hoping to cross the border illegally through the Balkans towards northern Europe. This was a consequence of rumors claiming the border would open. However, the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, clarified that the borders were not opening, and a letter claiming that the borders between Greece and North Macedonia were to open was fake.
We compared the image published in the NYT report captioned "Greek riot police set up a blockade near a refugee camp in Diavata, a suburb of Thessaloniki" to a frame of the viral video. At the 0:12 mark, we noted a woman in an ochre jacket and a young girl in a pink jacket, as seen in NYT's image. Similarly, Associated Press posted a video on YouTube on April 5, 2019, showing migrants and refugees clashing with Greek police. At the 0:05 mark of this video, we noted the same people.
What about the fire in the fields?
Associated Press shared various visuals of the scene and wrote that protesters lighted the fires seen in the fields to make the air more bearable after police officials sprayed tear gas. It added some of the blazes were also a result of exploding stun grenades.
USA Today also published an image and wrote that refugees also set fire to garbage in the field after police officers sprayed tear gas and threw stun grenades at refugees who were attempting to move toward the borders.
What is happening in Greece presently?
For nearly two weeks starting from July 17, 2023, wildfires were recorded in Greece. Reuters reported that the blazes, fanned by rising temperatures and strong winds, caused destruction and deaths. While Vassilis Kikilias, the Greek minister of climate crisis and civil protection, told reporters that most fires were caused by human activity, there is no evidence to claim that migrants caused them.
The video in question has no relation to the recent Greece wildfires. The footage dates back to 2019, and the fires seenresulted fromf a clash between the police and the migrants near the Greek border.