UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is supporting the Government of Greece in its response after a fire destroyed the Reception and Identification Centre in Moria, Lesvos.
After the initial fire which broke out on the evening of Tuesday 8 September causing extensive damage to thousands of asylumseekers’ shelters and common areas, more fires were reported on the evening of 9 September and on 10 September. The latest fires have affected the adjacent fields next to the Moria Reception and Identification Center (RIC), in what is known as “Olive Grove”, destroying what remaining accommodation was still available. The situation remains fluid and volatile.
All 12,000 residents of Moria, including some 4,000 children, managed to evacuate the Centre in time. No casualties have been reported among the residents and the people working at the site, but there was extensive damage to assets. • UNHCR offered immediate support and called for restraint amid reported tensions between local communities and asylumseekers.
On 9 September, the Government announced a four-month state of emergency on Lesvos, followed by several coordination meetings aimed at mobilizing all available resources to support both asylum-seekers and the general population of the island as a whole.
The fires have now left 11,500 asylum seekers, including 2,200 women and 4,000 children, without adequate shelter, sleeping out in the open for several consecutive nights on the streets, in fields and on beaches. Those affected include vulnerable people, very young children, pregnant women, older persons and people with disabilities.
The coronavirus pandemic is also adding to an already desperate situation. People who tested positive for COVID-19 the week before must be provided with immediate special care, isolation and treatment arrangements, as well as medical support. Basic sanitation and hygiene are essential conditions to create a minimum safe environment. UNHCR has advised all those previously staying in the RIC to restrict their movements until temporary solutions are found.
UNHCR is supporting the Greek Government led response by helping authorities identify immediate and long-term solutions, as well as mitigating COVID-19-related risks.
UNHCR is offering concrete support to Greek authorities to help protect and assist asylum seekers affected by the fires, mobilizing resources and emergency aid, and providing technical expertise and advice.