GCAP and the Faces of Migration partners reiterate our call on the governments of EU Member States, with support from the European Commission, to urgently relocate displaced individuals from Greece. Lesvos and the other EU Hotspots on the Aegean islands have reached breaking point long ago. European government must now urgently bring the men, women and children stranded in Greece to safety, and thereby uphold our European values of human rights and human dignity.

Urgent Call to Action from Civil Society Organisations across Europe

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Over the past days devastating firesi burnt down the Moria Registration and Identification Center and surrounding areas, the EU Hotspot on the Greek island Lesvos. The fires have left thousands of vulnerable individuals homeless and traumatised,ii among them over 4,000 children.iii

The undersigned organisations reiterate their call on the governments of EU Member States, with support from the European Commission,iv to urgently relocate displaced individuals from Greece.

While we are shocked and saddened at these developments, they come as no surprise. Lesvos and the other EU Hotspotsv on the Aegean islands have reached breaking point long ago.vi Moria camp is currently hosting roughly 12-13,000 displaced individuals, with an official capacity of only 2,800. These severely overcrowded camps are characterised by squalid living conditions and a severe lack of adequate sanitation or hygiene facilities, even amid the heightened health risks due to COVID-19.vii The situation in the other Greek Hotspots is similarly untenable and repeated warningsviii have remained unanswered for over four years.

Relocation urgently needed

We welcome the transfer of 406 unaccompanied children from Lesvos to the Greek mainland, with financial support from the European Commission.ix This demonstrates how swiftly transfers can be co-ordinated when the political will exists. We commend the Norwegian and Dutch governments’ commitments to relocating 50x and 100xi individuals respectively, as well as the French and German governments’ willingness to transfer 400 children.xii We urge further European governments to follow with concrete commitments and action without delay. The positive example set by relocations carried out by the coalition of willing Member States since March 2020xiii shows that relocations can be carried out safely and successfully for everyone involved. Member States, EU institutions, relevant EU and UN agencies with support from civil society should now share experiences, expertise and resources to ensure further states join the coalition. The undersigned organisations stand ready to support these efforts, to bring the men, women and children stranded in Greece to safety, and thereby uphold our European values of human rights and human dignity.

The EU Hotspots as an EU Migration Management Approach

The latest events prove once again the failure of the Hotspots as the default EU migration management approach. We call on the European Parliament to investigate the role that the EU and Member States played in the failed management of Moria. Moreover, we urge the European Commission, the German EU Council Presidency and Member States to treat the horrifying images of Moria burning as unequivocal proof of the tragic human costxiv of an EU asylum and migration system based on containment and deterrence policies. We strongly recommend the European Commission to take these events into account with a view to the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, and ensure the same policies do not inform the extremely concerning proposals for ‘processing centres’ at EU borders. It is vital that the New Pact is taken as an opportunity to present a new start rather than a replication of past errors.

Signed by:

  • Action Aid Hellas (Faces of Migration partner)
  • Ambrela Slovakia (Faces of Migration partner)
  • ASGI
  • BPID Bulgaria (Faces of Migration partner)
  • Caritas Europa
  • Caritas Hellas
  • Caritas Slovakia
  • Češi Pomáhají (Czech Republic)
  • Child Circle
  • Consortium of Migrants Assissting NGOs (Czech Republic) COSPE Onlus
  • Danish Refugee Council (DRC)
  • Defence for Children International
  • Defence for Children International – Belgium
  • Defence for Children International – Greece
  • Defence for Children International – Italia
  • Destination Unknown
  • Diaconia ECCB (Faces of Migration partner)
  • Diakonie Austria
  • Dutch Council for Refugees
  • Dynamo International – Street Workers Network Echo100Plus
  • Eurochild
  • Eurodiaconia
  • Europe Must Act
  • European Lawyers in Lesvos
  • European Network on Statelessness
  • Fenix Humanitarian Legal Aid
  • FOCSIV – Italian Federation of Christian NGOs Italy (Faces of Migration partner)
  • Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) (Faces of Migration partner)
  • Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)
  • Help Refugees
  • Human Rights League Slovakia
  • ICMC Europe
  • Immigrant Council of Ireland
  • International Child Development Initiatives (NL)
  • International Rescue Committee (IRC)
  • Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)
  • Kopin
  • Lighthouse Relief (LHR)
  • LUMOS Foundation
  • Mareena Country Slovakia
  • Médecins du Monde Belgique
  • Médecins du Monde – France
  • Minority Rights Group International
  • Missing Children Europe
  • Mokosha NGO Centre
  • Movimento per l’Autosviluppo, l’Interscambio e la Solidarietà (MAIS) (Italy)
  • Nadácia Milana Šimečku (Slovakia)
  • Network for Children’s Rights
  • One Happy Family Lesvos
  • ONGD Plataforma Portoguesa
  • Organization Mondiale pour l’Éducation Préscolaire/ World Organization for Early Childhood Education
  • Oxfam
  • PAX
  • Pax Christi Vlaanderen
  • Plate-Forme Mineurs en Exil – Platform Kinderen op de Vlucht
  • Povod Slovenia (Faces of Migration partner)
  • Refugee Legal Support (RLS)
  • Refugee Youth Service
  • Slovak Humanitarian Council PRAKIS Solidarity Now
  • SOS Villages Greece
  • Still I Rise
  • Terre des Hommes Hellas
  • Terre des Hommes International Federation
  • Velos Youth
  • Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen
  • Women’s Refugee Commission


i Al Jazeera, 9 September 2020

ii CNN, 9 September 2020

iii UNCHR and Council of Europe, 9 September 2020

iv Together with relevant EU and UN agencies and in cooperation with civil society organisations.

v UNHCR, 31 August 2018

vi Amnesty International, 6 December 2018 ; see also: Call to Action by Civil society organisations, March 2020

vii MSF, 30 July 2020

viii HRW, 19 March 2016

ix Ekathimerini, 9 September 2020

x Dpa-international, 9 September 2020

xi NLTimes.NL, 11 September 2020

xii France 24, 10 Septembre 2020

xiii European Commission, 15 April 2020 ; PubAffairsBruxelles, 8 July 2020

xiv MSF, 11 March 2020


See also: Statement – Greece: Transfer Refugees and Asylum seekers to Safety on Mainland – 10 September 2020