The IRC is deeply concerned about the health and wellbeing of around 600 refugees in Lesvos, who are being transferred from Kara Tepe Municipal Camp - a safe space for asylum seekers with specific vulnerabilities - to the newly constructed Mavrovouni, built as an emergency measure to house refugees displaced by the Moria fire last year.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, authorities began the transfer of families, pregnant women, people with visual, hearing or speech impairments, and people with disabilities to an area of the so-called Moria 2.0 camp that lacks basic shelter, electricity and running water. This is especially alarming, given that COVID-19 means that maintaining hygiene has never been more important. 

Since 2015, the IRC has been working in Kara Tepe to provide the safe and dignified conditions that are vital for the wellbeing of asylum seekers. In this camp, children could play in a playground, go to kindergarten and attend classes in  designated containers. 

Dimitra Kalogeropolou, IRC Greece Director, said:

“News that people are being removed from Kara Tepe camp to the new reception centre in Lesvos is deeply troubling. The conditions in this new camp – which is supposed to remain a temporary solution in the wake of the Moria fire last year – remain substandard and dangerous, especially for people with specific vulnerabilities, like those in Kara Tepe. Major concerns include the lack of a reliable electricity supply, accessible toilets for wheelchair users, long lines for food, and living in tents. 

Although expected, the closure of Kara Tepe is still a blow to the wellbeing and dignity of asylum seekers arriving at Europe’s shores. Following the closure of the independently run shelter, PIKPA, last October and the upcoming closure of ESTIA accommodation in November this year, asylum seekers on Lesvos will have no choice but to live in a tent amid appalling conditions. Once again, Greece and the EU are failing to provide dignified reception conditions. The IRC urges the Greek authorities to guarantee safe and dignified shelter for everyone, and ensure extremely vulnerable people can have access to shelter that does not put their health at risk.”

Imogen Sudbery, IRC Director of Policy & Advocacy, Europe, added:

“The camp at Mavrovouni is clearly unsafe for anyone to live in - let alone children, or people with disabilities, illness or other vulnerabilities. 

At this juncture, it’s imperative that the EU and its member states step in to ensure that the residents of Kara Tepe are treated with dignity and their rights upheld. This can be achieved by urgently relocating them off the Greek islands and to safety in other EU countries.

The EU’s member states have more than enough wealth and resources to welcome these 618 individuals and more. It should be unthinkable for the EU’s political leaders to continue to neglect their moral and legal obligations by allowing vulnerable people to languish in dirty, dangerous and unsuitable conditions rather than offering them a chance at a fresh start.

Once the most vulnerable have been relocated, the EU must scale up relocation for all refugees and asylum seekers who remain trapped on these islands. It’s unacceptable that people remain stuck in limbo while negotiations over the details of EU migration policy continue to drag on. It’s time for a coalition of the willing to take matters into their own hands, and press on with immediate and humane solutions.”