NORCAP experts have helped set up the new camp on Moria, after fires destroyed the previous camp. We also have a site planner on the island, supporting coordination and setting up water tanks and sewage facilities. (Photo: NORCAP/Alkisti Mavraki) September 2020

On the ground in Moria

Over 12,000 refugees and migrants were made homeless by the fires in Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesvos last week. The Norwegian Refugee Council’s global provider of expertise, NORCAP, has sent experts to the scene to support the coordination of the relief operation.

The fires left women, children and men living out in the open, huddled by the sides of roads, with nothing. They are living in distress and uncertainty and it’s vital that they receive basic protection as quickly as possible.

We are working with authorities to restore reception facilities as soon as possible. Our experts contribute to the emergency response with the Greek authorities, other NGOs and volunteers, assist in site planning and the set-up of basic services such as water and sewage.

Collaboration and funding are vital in delivering humanitarian services to those in need when emergencies occur. NORCAP works closely with the Reception and Identification Services in Greece, thanks to generous funding from the EEA. We are also in dialogue with UN agencies to provide expertise in specific areas that need extra attention, to ensure people affected by the fires receive the assistance they need. 

“The mobilisation is huge,” says Kostas Karagiannis, NORCAP’s programme adviser in Moria. “Thanks to this, within the first 48 hours after the fire, two sections of the new camp were already able to accommodate people in need.”

Site planner Haroula Gialama (right) and Programme adviser Kostas Karagiannis are deployed to Moria to help set up a new camp for the refugees and migrants who lost their shelters during the fires in Moria last week. (Photo: NORCAP/Alkisti Mavraki) September 2020.
Kostas, pictured left, is coordinating NORCAP’s programme response on Lesvos. Photo: NORCAP/Alkisti Mavraki

Uncertainty is rising

The situation on the island is tense. Although many new shelters have been built, many families are too afraid to move in. They’re scared of another fire, the rise in Covid-19 cases, hostility from some locals, and the prospect of being stuck on the island indefinitely.

There are currently 95,000 pending asylum applications in Greece. Even before the fires, the humanitarian situation in Moria and other camps was becoming increasingly intolerable. Covid-19 has brought an added layer of stress and insecurity, both among the camp population and the local communities.

The new camp, although vital, is only a temporary solution.

"Although people are in immediate need of shelter and essential services, we are mindful that this should not become another overcrowded facility like the Moria camp,” says Benedicte Giæver, NORCAP Executive Director. “Europe needs to step up and take responsibility by supporting Greece in relocating people from the islands now.”