Key points of media statements made by Philippe Leclerc, UNHCR Representative in Greece, during his visit to Lesvos island

We are in the emergency site which has been set up on Lesvos by the Greek government, with the support of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Some 1,100 people are currently in the camp – mostly vulnerable individuals. It is from here that the asylum process can continue, and procedures followed, […]

UNHCR Representative in Greece, Philippe Leclerc, talks with asylum seekers affected by the fires in Moria camp during his visit to the island of Lesvos on 16 September 2020

  • We are in the emergency site which has been set up on Lesvos by the Greek government, with the support of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Some 1,100 people are currently in the camp – mostly vulnerable individuals. It is from here that the asylum process can continue, and procedures followed, so that solutions can be found.
  • The current relocation programme applies for a limited number of persons, in particular for unaccompanied children and some more vulnerable individuals. We welcome the recent commitments by Germany, France and other countries. We continue to advocate for continued support by other European countries to Greece, which is hosting more than 100,000 asylum seekers and refugees since the 2015 arrivals.
  • It is important that all actors here – including the international organizations like IOM, WHO, UNICEF but also all the NGOs like MSF, Médecins du Monde, Praksis, METAdrasi, Iliaktida, Diotima, which work inside or outside the camp – provide support to the response, which is under the leadership and responsibility of the Greek government.
  • It is also very important to discuss with the local communities, which have reasons to be concerned, since what they continue to see is a situation of overcrowded camps.
  • While we call for as fast and fair processing as possible, efficiency and patience is also needed; by the refugees, the local communities and the authorities. Right now, what we need is peace for the people, many of whom are children and women at risk. It is important to ensure peaceful and orderly assistance. Despair is understandable, but it cannot justify violence. Violence will not provide any solution. We need peaceful, orderly way of getting people out of Lesvos gradually.
  • The Greek authorities are determined to provide emergency response to the current situation and UNHCR was asked to support it. We have provided tents, relief items continue to arrive, while water will be soon provided more systematically, and the army continues with graveling and the pitching of the tents for the emergency response. The planning for the future is up to the Greek state in cooperation with local authorities.
  • It’s extremely important that people go through proper screening, identification and treatment procedures for COVID. This is organized here with the help of the Ministry of Health, EODY, and the support of UNHCR, so that tests are made and quarantine is provided for those traced positive.
    Proper quarantine is needed for the new arrivals and all relevant protocols need to be followed for the whole population, for the public health of refugees and the local communities alike.
  • The key word is “solutions”. First comes the emergency response, but then the solutions. People need to have hope and trust in the procedures that are in place.