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Geneva Palais briefing note on situation for children affected by fire at Moria camp in Lesvos, and UNICEF response

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GENEVA, 15 September 2020 - This is a summary of what was said by UNICEF Greece Representative Luciano Calestini, reporting from Lesvos Island – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

"There are certainly substantial ongoing efforts led by the Greek Government on the new temporary facility being established a few kilometers away from the destroyed Moria Registration and Identification Centre (RIC). The Minister of Migration and Asylum, Mr. Mitarakis, is on site and expects 8,000 spaces to be available later today. He is confident that the new facility can house up to 12,000 in a few days – which in principle could accommodate the entire population of Moria. A large number of organizations including UNICEF, UNHCR, IOM, as well as international and local actors such as Medecins du Monde (MDM), MSF, ILIAKTIDA and many more, have been supporting the efforts led by the Greek State around the clock. It is indeed welcomed that on day 6 of this tragic event we are already so far in finding an interim solution.

"We remain concerned, however, about the fact that only 800 individuals, including families and children, have accepted to be hosted in the new temporary facility. Community members and humanitarian partners have reported the circulation of false information and rumors discouraging a move to the new site. This will require clear, consistent and transparent messaging that encourages people to come to the location as a central place for getting services.

"All 406 previously identified unaccompanied children who had been previously housed inside the Moria RIC, were immediately sheltered in a UNICEF center and transferred to Thessaloniki within 24 hours of the fire under the coordination led by the Special Secretary for Unaccompanied Minors and IOM. We are equally pleased by the commitment made by EU member states to include these 406 children in the ongoing relocation initiative and we are welcoming the acceleration of efforts.

"An additional 35 newly identified unaccompanied or separated children have now come forward, and we are working to either reunite them with their families or ensure they are relocated to appropriate accommodation facilities immediately. We must also not lose sight of the fact that there are still some 430 unaccompanied children still on other Greek islands including Samos and Chios that should also be included in any immediate relocation plans.

"Despite these efforts, over 3,000 children remain in Lesvos and are still lacking appropriate accommodation and access to basic services.

"The immediate hope is that this black cloud has a silver lining, which is not only that conditions improve dramatically for the refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, but that this tragic event accelerates a durable solution for all.

"UNICEF stands ready to make sure that the 3,800 affected children remaining on the island can access immediate psychosocial and other support. And very quickly, to make sure that they can learn. Previously only a fraction of children were being reached, and it is critical to ensure all children are learning while they remain on the Greek Islands, while urging relevant stakeholders to use this momentum as an opportunity to identify long term solutions, including a transfer to the mainland.

"We hope and believe that the forthcoming EU Migration Pact will provide the opportunity to transform this urgent need into concrete actions."

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