Schinas, von der Leyen: European solidarity with Greece on migration

The European Commission on Thursday signed a memorandum outlining a detailed plan agreed by Greek authorities and EU agencies to establish a new, up-to-standard reception centre on the island of Lesvos by early September 2021. This is a key step in resolving the situation following the fires that destroyed the Moria camp in September. It is the result of the work of European Taskforce that was created at that time.

“Today’s agreement fulfills our commitment to sustainable solutions. Practical European solidarity with Greece,” said the vice-president of the ╬Ľuropean Commission, Margaritis Schinas, on Thursday.

The memorandum sets out the respective responsibilities and areas of cooperation between the Commission, the Greek authorities and the EU agencies. The current agreement concerns EU funding, in addition to the 121 million euros granted to Greece last month for the construction of three smaller centres on the islands of Samos, Kos and Leros, which will also be completed in September 2021.

“With our agreement today, Europe and Greece are working hand in hand for the people on the islands. We will bring decent conditions to migrants and refugees who arrive, as well as supporting the communities on the Greek islands. It is also about fast and fair procedures, so the centres 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,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson underlined 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.”

In September, the Commission announced the setting up of a taskforce to deal with the emergency situation on Lesvos, based on the principles of the new Migration and Asylum Pact. The current agreement defines the following areas of cooperation between the Commission, the Greek authorities and the EU agencies:

* Development and construction of a reception centre designed to provide adequate conditions and to operate with swift, fair and effective procedures. The centre will have a living area with containers, a specific area for newly arrived people to help them through the first days, medical containers for immediate health care, recreational spaces for sports, playgrounds and prefabricated houses for formal and non-formal education. Common kitchens will allow to prepare food and shops will serve basic needs. Special rooms will be set up for people with disabilities.

* Improved management of arrivals with full reception and identification procedures including health and security screening in a specifically set up area.

* Seamless asylum and return procedures and integration measures to ensure that nobody is left in protracted uncertainty. Assisted voluntary return and reintegration programmes will be promoted for people who do not have the right to stay in the EU, but a detention area will also be established in the multi-purpose centres to support effective return. People in need of international protection will be better supported to start their integration process.

* Voluntary return and reintegration programmes will be supported for people who do not have the right to stay in the EU, but there will also be detention facilities in multi-purpose centres to support effective return. Individuals in need of international protection will be better supported to begin the integration process.

* Reception conditions in line with EU law taking into account international standards and best practices, notably with regard to health, security, sanitation, food, information provision and counselling, clothing and non-food items, and common areas. A gender-based and child-rights approach will be followed taking into account the needs of families and children (both accompanied and unaccompanied) while ensuring that vulnerabilities are adequately identified and addressed.

* Adequate staff training, capacity and planning, including risk assessment and contingency planning, to ensure the smooth operation of the new centre.