The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, is deeply saddened by the death of a 65-year-old woman and a six-year-old boy at the Moria Reception and Identification Centre on the island of Lesvos. The woman and the boy were killed on Thursday night when a cooking gas canister exploded. The mother of the deceased boy and his younger sibling were severely burned and transferred to Athens where they are hospitalized.
The fires which followed the explosion left some 400 people without accommodation, mainly families. The 38 unaccompanied children that resided in Moria site were safely transferred to other shelters on the island, under UNHCR’s accommodation programme and managed through its partner “Iliaktida”. Currently, there is no unaccompanied child in Moria. Some people were also hosted at the temporary accommodation site of Kara Tepe.
The tragic event is a reminder of the urgency to improve living conditions for the refugees on the islands. It also highlights the need that reception and asylum procedures should be carried out in a more efficient manner and in the timeframe provided by the law, so as to reduce overcrowding and the frustration felt by the people waiting on the islands, some of them for a very long time, under extremely difficult conditions and with no clear perspective in sight. To this end, it is necessary that the Greek Asylum Service is reinforced, including through support from the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).
Efforts to find alternative accommodation should be enhanced, as well. UNHCR, through its partners “Iliaktida”, “Arsis” and “Praksis”, is already hosting over 200 vulnerable men, women and children in apartments in Mytilene. In order to alleviate some pressure off the overcrowded sites on Lesvos, UNHCR continues to assist the authorities in transferring asylum-seekers with asylum cards to the Greek mainland. Since June, UNHCR has helped identify, inform, and transport over 2,500 people from the islands to the mainland.
For the 400 refugees and migrants who have lost their shelter after yesterday’s events, UNHCR and partners have started setting up UNHCR family tents, in coordination with the authorities. For those affected by the fires, packages including blankets, matresses and hygiene kits are being distributed.