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Regional Bureau for Europe: Greece Update # 12 Lesvos (18 December 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) on 8-10 September.

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


More than three months after fires swept through the Moria Reception and Identification Centre, nearly 7,400 asylum-seekers and refugees are sheltered in the Mavrovouni site, which was set up to host those affected. The fires had left some 12,000 people homeless, of which many were transferred to other accommodations.

The Greek authorities lead the response with support of UN agencies, including UNHCR, as well as international and national NGOs and volunteer groups.

In addition to implementing technical interventions to improve living conditions in Mavrovouni, UNHCR continues to call for comprehensive solutions and European support and responsibility-sharing.


Adverse weather conditions hit Lesvos with heavy rainfall and strong winds on 12-13 December. Some 55 accommodation tents hosting roughly 275 people sustained minor damages. Under the coordination of the Greek authorities, UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations were able to immediately repair or replace the affected tents and provide items to protect tents against further rain, wind and cold weather.

A few days later, on 18 December, a boat capsized off the southern coast of Lesvos, claiming the life of at least one person. The Hellenic Coast Guard was still searching for other persons who may have been on the vessel at the time of writing. Twenty-four people reached the shore and were transferred to the Municipal Kara Tepe site for quarantine. UNHCR is in contact with the authorities to support the survivors as necessary, all the while reiterating its call for a comprehensive response that includes transfers of asylum-seekers from Mavrovouni and, in general, from overcrowded reception centres on the Greek Aegean Islands to sustainable accommodation on the mainland and relocation to other European states.

Relocation from Greece is a mechanism through which volunteering EU member states and associated countries have committed to relocate unaccompanied children and vulnerable families, including asylum-seekers and international protection holders, who may have medical conditions or other vulnerabilities. With the relocation of 86 people to Germany on 17 December, more than 2,000 individuals have been able to travel safely from Greece to other European states so far in 2020, including over 550 unaccompanied children.