Moria camp, Lesvos. December 2018. (Photo: NORCAP/Jørn Casper Øwre)
Moria Camp at Lesvos. About 22,000 asylum seekers are currently living in the area, but the camp was originally constructed for about 3000 people. Photo from December 2018. Photo: NORCAP/Jørn Casper Øwre

Urgent need to relocate refugees from Greece

Published 05. Mar 2020
The large number of asylum seekers currently trying to cross the EU’s external border from Turkey is making it ever more urgent to relocate people from overcrowded camps in Greece and ensure better European responsibility sharing, argues the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

Greece is already hosting 115,000 refugees and migrants. The reception system is stretched beyond its limits and many people are living in precarious conditions in overcrowded camps in the Greek islands.

The EU has so far promised support for border management, additional funding and some humanitarian supplies, but has avoided the most urgent issue: support to Greece through the relocation of asylum seekers to other member states.

“The situation in Greece cannot be solved merely with more money, technical expertise and equipment. There is an urgent need for European countries to take their share of responsibility by relocating some of the asylum seekers,” said NRC’s Europe Director Edouard Rodier.

Between 2016 and 2018, EU member states relocated more than 30,000 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy. To wait for all countries in the European Union to agree on a new relocation mechanism or a better system for responsibility sharing has proved to be a lengthy and so far unsuccessful process. Continued opposition to responsibility sharing by a few countries should not prevent others from taking action to assist Greece. France, Portugal and Finland have already said they will help relocate a number of asylum seekers.

“France, Portugal and Finland have now taken some very welcome first initiatives, proving that the deadlock in the EU cannot be used as an excuse for the current inaction by many European states,” Rodier added.

The Norwegian Refugee Council is also calling for the EU to make sure that any measures taken to handle the situation at EU’s external borders do not increase the suffering of vulnerable people, and that they comply with international laws, including the Refugee Convention.

“Europe needs to take responsibility for what is happening now at its external borders. It cannot suspend people’s right to seek asylum,” said Rodier.


  • Between 2016-2018 more than 30,000 asylum seekers were relocated from Greece and Italy to other European states as part of a European relocation mechanism.
  • Since then, EU member states have not been able to agree on how to share the responsibility for asylum seekers arriving Europe.
  • However, some countries have taken the lead in making individual commitments:
    • Portugal has agreed to relocate 1,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Greece.
    • France has announced that they will take 400 asylum seekers from Greece.
    • Finland has announced they will take 175 people from camps and reception centers in Greece, Cyprus and Malta.
    • Serbia, a non-EU country, has also said they will take 100 unaccompanied refugee children from Greece.

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