European Commission OK’s Plan for New Migrant and Refugee Center on Lesvos



The former Moria refugee camp on Lesvos. File Photo

Greek Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi and European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson on Thursday signed a Memorandum of Cooperation for the construction of a new reception center for migrants and refugees on the Greek island of Lesvos.

Once the site of the dilapidated camp of Moria, which was set on fire by its residents who desired to be moved abroad, Lesvos will soon be the site of an all-new reception center, built with the cooperation of the Greek authorities, the European Commission and EU agencies , including the EASO, FRONTEX, EUROPOL, and FRA.

The agreement is the result of the “European Taskforce,” which was set up at the time of the fires in order to address the urgent situation on the island, a common target for migrants and refugees. Participants in the Taskforce worked under the guidelines of the new Migration and Asylum Pact.

According to the Migration and Asylum Ministry announcement, the new camp, to be completed by early September of 2021, “will meet all European standards, have modern and durable infrastructure, provide full medical care and take into account the needs of women, children and families.”

The duration of stays in the facility will be short — up to a few months — until a decision either rejecting or approving requests for asylum is issued, according to the Memorandum.

The funds and expertise for the new facility are to be provided by the European Commission, which will work closely with the Greek authorities for the joint supervision and surveillance of the project’s management.

Both Greek authorities and the European Commission will cooperate on all the key strategic issues involved in the center’s construction and the implementaion of its progam.

The memorandum does not affect the Greek authorities’ responsibility for the planning, construction and management of the new facility, nor for making decisions on whether to grant asylum or to return asylum-seekers, nor for any other decision relating to public order, public health or national security.

Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi stated that the construction of the new closed and controlled facility on Lesvos “will allow us to permanently shut down the temporary facility at Mavrovouni, while it will act as a guide for similar centers on other Aegean islands.”

Vice-president of the Εuropean Commission Margaritis Schinas stated “Today’s agreement fulfills our commitment to sustainable solutions. Practical European solidarity with Greece,”

The agreement stipulates the EU funding for the facility, which will be in addition to the 121 million euros granted to Greece in November for the construction of three smaller migrant and refugee on the islands of Samos, Kos and Leros.

It is projected that these centers will also be complete as of September, 2021.

“With our agreement today, Europe and Greece are working hand in hand for the people on the islands,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a Tweet after the Memorandum was signed.

“It is also about fast and fair procedures, so the centers are what they should be – only a “temporary stop before either return or integration. Managing migration is a European challenge and today we are putting European solidarity into practice,” she added.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson stated that “this is about people and their basic right to feel safe. This agreement is an important step towards a sustainable solution in Lesvos and in making sure that a situation like Moria can never happen again.

“It is also an important step in changing how we approach migration management and it paves the way for bringing into practice the guiding principles of the new Pact on Migration and Asylum.”