UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and its partner Iliaktida, have started the temporary transfer of some 130 vulnerable asylum-seekers, mainly families with children living in tents, to hotels at special rates, as an emergency measure due to the snowfall on Lesvos. The arrangement is part of a short-term accommodation scheme funded by the European Union.
In coordination with the national authorities, vulnerable asylum-seekers registered with the Asylum Service will be accommodated in the hotels, until they receive appropriate documentation from the authorities enabling them to travel to the mainland for the continuation of their asylum process. Among them are pregnant women, babies under 6 months old, individuals with serious medical conditions, elderly people, persons with disabilities, single-headed families and shipwreck survivors. Hot meals and basic items will also be offered during their short term stay.
For the people staying at the Reception and Identification site in Moria, three heated rubhalls are installed and another one is being currently prepared in order to increase warm areas. In addition, UNHCR's partner Samaritan's Purse, in collaboration with the NGO Eurorelief, continues to distribute warm clothes and replace wet blankets. The remaining tents are being insulated for better protection from the cold, while wooden pallets from old housing units are reused as flooring under tents.
At the accommodation site in Kara Tepe hosting around 870 people, UNHCR is replacing housing units with more solid prefabricated houses. So far, 57 have been installed. All residents have access to heating and warm clothes.
UNHCR has urged to intensify efforts for alternative accommodation on Lesvos, especially for those at heightened risk. Immediate solutions are necessary in order to improve living conditions for the thousands of asylum seekers on the island. In December 2016, UNHCR accommodated over 330 vulnerable men, women and children at apartments in Mytilene managed by its NGO partners Iliaktida, Arsis and Praksis, and continues to assist the authorities in transferring asylum seekers with asylum cards to the mainland. Since late September, around 740 asylum seekers have been transferred from Lesvos to UNHCR accomodation or government-run sites in the mainland.