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Greece Update, Moria Fire Emergency, 2 October 2020

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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 has scaled up its support for all asylum-seekers affected and urges for comprehensive and humane solutions to address overcrowding on Greek islands.

BACKGROUND

Further to the fires that completely destroyed Moria Reception and Identification Centre (RIC). The Greek authorities have been leading and coordinating the response to assist some 12,000 asylum-seekers who were left homeless overnight. An emergency site close to Mytilene, in the area of Kara Tepe, was set up within days to temporarily house affected asylum-seekers. According to the authorities, by 2 October, some 8,500 asylum-seekers were hosted in the new emergency site while several hundred vulnerable asylum-seekers had been transferred to safe accommodations on the island or relocated to the mainland.

Organised transfers of some 881 recognised refugees and vulnerable asylum-seekers from Lesvos to temporary accommodation on the mainland helped reduce the population in the emergency site, which had reached some 10,000 residents at its peak. UNHCR supported this effort by facilitating departure and arrival at the port and providing targeted information sessions along with IOM and EASO.

UNHCR teams and partners are providing asylum-seekers with emergency shelter and core relief items, prioritizing vulnerable persons and people with specific needs UNHCR continues advocating for comprehensive solutions, calling for continuous European support and responsibility-sharing.

UNHCR’S RESPONSE

Site planning and shelter

UNHCR has been supporting the Government in setting up the emergency site as a temporary measure to provide immediate shelter and protection to asylum-seekers who were affected by the fires. As of 1 October, 1,100 family tents – 900 of which were provided by UNHCR – four UNHCR Rubb Halls and eight IOM Rubb Halls had been set up. UNHCR continues advocating for better shelter arrangements that take into consideration the needs of women, children and vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities.

The Government has asked UNHCR to assist in making improvements to the emergency site, in particular to prepare for winter. Given its location near the seashore, the site is exposed to challenging weather conditions and safety hazards. With support from community representatives who helped facilitate the process and communicate with other site residents, UNHCR has placed flooring under 150 tents, providing stability and protection. As of 1 October, UNHCR had delivered 1,230 m3 of gravel to protect tents and common areas from rain and flooding and started delivering kits for insulation. UNHCR and other actors have highlighted to authorities that large-scale efforts are required to ensure proper drainage throughout the site ahead of winter.

UNHCR continues to advocate with authorities at the central and local levels for more durable post-emergency shelter solutions.