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Press Release

Riot police arrive on Lesvos as construction of new reception centres commences– now is the time for Greece and the EU to address what is happening, for refugees and locals alike.

The International Rescue Committee is gravely concerned about the deteriorating situation on the Greek islands, as a fresh wave of tension washes over Lesvos and Chios today. 

Riot police arrived on the islands in the early hours of this morning, to provide security for the building operations for new centres to house asylum seekers, members of the local community protested the manner in which the Greek government is seeking to address the serious humanitarian crisis single-handedly.

Locals have been increasingly concerned with the high numbers of asylum seekers forced to stay on the islands and the terrible conditions they are living in; more than almost 20,000 people continue to live in Moria, a reception centre designed for just 3,000. Building new camps cannot be viewed as the ultimate solution. The government must urgently do more to work with local communities and NGOs to immediately decongest the islands and prevent future overcrowding.

Dimitra Kalogeropoulou, IRC Greece Director, said:

“The rise in tensions comes as no surprise. Local communities have been impacted by the government’s policies towards asylum seekers, especially the containment policy, which has trapped over 40,000 people on the islands. Tensions like what our teams witnessed last night, increase the complexity of an already very challenging situation, but one thing is clear: overcrowding on the islands is good for no one; local communities feel their islands have been transformed into giant prisons, while asylum seekers are forced to live in dangerous conditions. 

Greece cannot continue to deal with the situation on its own and EU member states need to step up in solidarity and share responsibility for protecting people in need.”


About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 29 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue-uk.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.