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Greece Update, Moria Fire Emergency, 18 September 2020

Situation Report
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UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is supporting the government-led response after a series of fires destroyed the Reception and Identification Centre in Moria (Lesvos).

UNHCR is scaling up immediate support for all asylum-seekers affected and urges for longterm solutions to address overcrowding on Greek islands


  • The fires on 8-10 September destroyed all accommodations in Moria Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) and the adjacent “Olive Grove” area on Lesvos island. Some 12,000 asylum-seekers were left homeless overnight.

  • Greek authorities are leading and coordinating the immediate response. An emergency site close to Mytilene town, in the area of Kara Tepe, is being established to temporarily house affected asylum-seekers. On 17 September, Greek authorities started moving asylum-seekers to the new emergency site, from where they will be able to access asylum and other procedures, and gradually move to accommodations on mainland.

  • UNHCR teams and partners are providing asylum-seekers with emergency shelter and core relief items. The Office is also supporting authorities with technical advice and expertise regarding site set-up and planning. At the same time, UNHCR is advocating for long-term solutions, calling for continuous European support and responsibility-sharing.

  • In the wake of a number of arrests of suspects in connection to the fires in Moria, UNHCR urges all to refrain from speculation and allow legal processes to be duly followed. Communities and groups should not be stigmatized on the account of alleged actions of certain individuals.


Site planning and water, sanitation and hygiene

UNHCR is supporting the Government in setting up the emergency site as a temporary measure to provide immediate shelter and protection to asylum-seekers who were otherwise sleeping rough in makeshift shelters or out in the open in fields, groves and parking lots. UNHCR is providing technical assistance with graveling and other preparatory works. As of 18 September, the emergency site had an estimated capacity for 8,000 persons, while works are still ongoing.

Adequate water, sanitation and hygiene capacity are essential conditions for a safe environment. UNHCR has installed over 40 water, hygiene and sanitation facilities so far, including chemical toilets and handwashing stations. These are particularly crucial to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some 20 chemical toilets have also been provided by the International Rescue Committee. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation delivered four water tanks and protective masks to the population. Despite these efforts, access to sanitation remains limited in the emergency site and priority must be given to improving water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.