UN calls for urgent evacuation of Lesbos refugee camp amid pandemic fears

12 February 2020
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The UN refugee agency has called for the urgent evacuation of families and sick people from the Moria camp on Lesbos. Over the weekend boats continued to arrive on the Agean islands, sending more families into “alarming” and overcrowded conditions in the refugee camps.

The Moria camp in Lesbos has grown from a population of 5,000 last July to around 20,000, with new families arriving daily. Even the most vulnerable new arrivals can no longer find space in the official area, but have to build makeshift shelters in a rubbish-filled olive grove around the camp.

Over 85% of arrivals last year were refugees. The majority of families came from Afghanistan and Syria, but also from Iraq, Palestine, Somalia, the DRC, and elsewhere.

UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said: “More than 36,000 asylum seekers are now staying in reception centers across five islands which were originally designed for 5,400 people. We are seriously concerned about the limited access to health services at the reception centers which is aggravated by the difficult living conditions.

“Greece has been generous and compassionate towards refugees, despite a very complex and difficult situation, and the East Aegean islands have taken on a vastly disproportionate burden and responsibility.

It is critical that other regions in Greece step up their solidarity to help alleviate pressures by receiving transferred asylum seekers and opening up reception places.

“There is an urgent need for the government to speed up the implementation of its plans to move thousands of asylum seekers from the islands to the mainland.”

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