UNHCR shocked at death of Afghan boy on Lesvos; urges transfer of unaccompanied children to safe shelters

The Reception and Identification Centre in Moria, Lesvos, now hosts over 8,500 refugees and migrants – four times its capacity.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is deeply saddened by news that a 15-year-old Afghan boy was killed and two other teenage boys injured after a fight broke out last night at the Moria reception centre on the Greek island of Lesvos. Despite the prompt actions by authorities and medical personnel, the boy was pronounced dead at Vostaneio Hospital in Mytilene, the main port town on Lesvos. The two other boys were admitted at the hospital where one required life-saving surgery. A fourth teenager, also from Afghanistan, was arrested by police in connection with the violence.

The safe area at the Moria Reception and Identification Centre, RIC, hosts nearly 70 unaccompanied children, but more than 500 other boys and girls are staying in various parts of the overcrowded facility without a guardian and exposed to exploitation and abuse. Some of them are accommodated with unknown adults.

“I was shocked to hear about the boy’s death”, said UNHCR Representative in Greece, Philippe Leclerc. “Moria is not the place for children who are alone and have faced profound trauma from events at home and the hardship of their flight. They need special care in dedicated shelters. The Greek government must take urgent measures to ensure that these children are transferred to a safe place and to end the overcrowding we see on Lesvos and other islands,” he said, adding that UNHCR stands ready to support by all means necessary.

Frustration and tensions can easily boil over in Moria RIC which now hosts over 8,500 refugees and migrants – four times its capacity. Access to services such as health and psychological support are limited while security is woefully insufficient for the number of people. Unaccompanied children especially can face unsafe conditions for months while waiting for an authorized transfer to appropriate shelter. Their prolonged stay in such difficult conditions further affects their psychology and well-being.

Nearly 2,000 refugees and migrants arrived by sea to Greece between 12 and 18 August, bringing the number of entries this year to 21,947. Some 22,700 people, including nearly 1,000 unaccompanied and separated children, are now staying on the Greek Aegean islands, the highest number in three years.