The Greek government has said that it intends to transfer 5,000 people from the Greek islands to the mainland before the start of winter. Responding to the news, Nicola Bay, head of mission for Oxfam in Greece, said:
"This is a very positive step that will save lives. People across Europe are asking for action and now it is imperative that people are moved quickly and in a safe and well-coordinated manner. Winter is just around the corner and thousands of refugees and migrants are still sharing unheated tents exposed to the bitter cold.
"Even if we could move all 5,000 people overnight, reception facilities on the islands will still be over capacity, unsafe and unsanitary.
"The Greek government and EU member states should now end their containment policy which has created a virtual ghetto at Europe's edge."
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Notes to editors:
- In London: Kai Tabacek on firstname.lastname@example.org | +44 (0)7584 265 077
- In Brussels: Florian Oel on email@example.com | office +32 2 234 11 15 | mobile +32 473 56 22 60
- Oxfam spokespeople are available for interviews and background in Athens, Lesvos, London and Brussels.
- The decision to move 5,000 people was reported by UNHCR in a coordination meeting with other NGOs on 7 December. The target includes an estimated 1,000 people who have already been transferred to the mainland since 27 November.
- Oxfam and 12 other human rights and humanitarian organisations launched a campaign on 1 December calling on Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to immediately transfer 7,500 people to the mainland by 21 December and to end the containment policy that traps people on the Greek islands.
- Oxfam works with refugees and migrants in Lesvos. We respond to the urgent needs of people arriving, including by providing legal aid through partners. Learn more about Oxfam's humanitarian response in Greece.
- As of 1 December, reception facilities on Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos were almost 7,200 over capacity: 12,744 people in facilities with a capacity of just 5,576. Last winter, three men died on Lesbos in the six days between 24 and 30 January. Although there is still no official statement on the cause of these deaths, they have been attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning from makeshift heating devices in their tents. The Greek government has previously transferred around 2,000 people from Samos and Lesbos to the mainland since early November.