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Migration and Home Affairs

Construction of new reception centres

Current state of play in the temporary centre on Lesvos

After the fire in Moria camp in September 2020, 12,362 people were left without shelter. The Commission, together with several partners, provided immediate support to assist the Greek authorities in providing shelter as quickly as possible. 

new reception centre_lesvos_sewage
Works on the sewage system for the temporary centre on Lesvos, April 2021

The Commission, Greek authorities and humanitarian organisations have been working on the ground to upgrade the current temporary centre until a new, up-to-standard reception centre on the island is ready.

The Commission awarded an initial €5 million grant agreement to finance the necessary works in the temporary centre for the comprehensive upgrade of installations and infrastructure: 

  • landscaping, excavations and backlifting
  • gravelling 
  • drainage, and 
  • electricity (installation of pillars, cable channels, etc.)
Insulating Refugee Housing Units against cold in the temporary centre on Lesvos, December 2021
Insulating Refugee Housing Units against cold in the temporary centre on Lesvos, December 2021

Since then, comprehensive building works took place and were finalised by end of 2021. This includes the removal and replacement of tents in the temporary centre on Lesvos with winterised accommodation containers and Refugee Housing Units.

Refugee Housing Units appropriate for winter conditions, December 2021
Refugee Housing Units appropriate for winter conditions, December 2021
Accommodation containers that replaced tents in the temporary centre on Lesvos, December 2021
Accommodation containers that replaced tents in the temporary centre on Lesvos, December 2021

Water and sanitation

At first, the centre residents used chemical toilets, and hot and cold water for shower facilities came from tanks. In November 2021, after months of construction works, a proper water, sewage and electricity grid was built and connected to the local grid as part of project “WASH”.

WASH facilities in the temporary reception centre on Lesvos
Project WASH containers with toilets, showers and sinks, November 2021

Project WASH included the construction of an internal water and sewage network, as well as the set-up of modern, containerised toilet and shower facilities (655 toilets and 405 showers in total). The EU funded the project in the amount of almost €9 million, while its implementation was carried out under the leadership of UNICEF and IOM.

Education, leisure and sport facilities

Throughout 2021, due to the building works the centre was constantly changing and remains a “work in progress”. In early spring, sports courts were installed providing the residents with facilities to exercise.

New basketball and soccer courts in the temporary facility on Lesvos
New basketball and soccer courts in the temporary centre on Lesvos

A number of initiatives were also providing non-formal education to children and social care activities in the centre. During 2021, more and more spaces were provided for such activities, while formal education takes place outside the centre in Greek public schools. As of January 2022, the new “education hub” is up and running inside the temporary centre on Lesvos.

The “education hub” - space for non-formal education at the temporary centre on Lesvos
The “education hub” - space for non-formal education at the temporary centre on Lesvos
A classroom for pre-school children inside the education hub at the temporary centre on Lesvos
A classroom for pre-school children inside the education hub at the temporary centre on Lesvos

Steps in establishing the new reception centre on Lesvos

The Commission’s priority is to establish an up-to-standard reception centre on Lesvos where people live in dignified conditions and fast, effective procedures determine whether they have the right to stay in Europe or if they have to return.

Choosing the new centre location

In 2020, efforts have focused on identifying an appropriate location for the new reception centre, holding roundtable meetings with the local representatives to restore trust and find a good way forward. 

The local communities on the Aegean islands have shouldered an important responsibility by hosting arrivals at the EU external borders. The new site allows for a sustainable solution, where migration is managed, and the conditions are better both for the migrants arriving on Lesvos and for the local community hosting them.

Temporary centre on Lesvos with winterised houses and living containers, December 2021
Temporary centre on Lesvos with winterised houses and living containers, December 2021

Soil testing and start of construction

In November 2020, scientific experts of the Hellenic Survey of Geology and Mineral Exploration have analysed soil samples of the site for the new centre. The experts issued a report of the soil testing, confirming the safety of the location.

Together with partnering EU agencies, the Task Force has further supported the Greek Authorities in defining the draft designs of the new centre on Lesvos to make sure they are up to standard and fit for purpose. In April 2021, a grant agreement of €155 million  was signed for the construction of the new reception centre in Lesvos and one in Chios, providing clarity on the financing of the project.

In parallel, the Greek authorities have obtained the necessary permits to allow for construction. Final bids for the tender were received by the Greek authorities on 2 September 2021. The winner of the bid has been selected and the final approval of the contract was made by the Greek authorities. First excavation started in late January 2022.

New reception facilities on Greek islands

The new reception facilities on the Aegean islands fulfil the following standards:

  • safe zones for unaccompanied children, teenagers and other vulnerable people
  • facilities for procedures after initial arrivals and required administrative areas
  • leisure and recreational areas
  • an entry/exit system, where residents and staff can enter by using a personal access card
  • pre-removal centres
  • accommodation and sanitary facilities
  • computer spaces
  • kitchen and laundry areas
  • restaurants and stores
  • a system of recycling irrigated water

The safe accommodation of the beneficiaries as well as of the employees is ensured through a secure and controlled entry-and-exit system and through measures for whomever is entitled to have access to the center.

EU funding for all the new reception centres on the Greek islands amounts to €276 million.

The new reception centre on Samos island

The new reception centre on Kos island

The new reception centre on Leros island

The new reception centre on Chios island

In addition to the new facilities on Lesvos, the European Commission also funds the construction of the new reception centre on Chios. The tender procedure to select a construction contractor has been concluded and the contract is awarded. However, works have been suspended, as the municipality of Chios has launched a request for interim protection.