Greece and the European Union have agreed on a joint action plan to set up a new center for the reception and identification of migrants in the island of Lesbos, in the eastern Aegean, the EU Commission announced on Thursday. 

The announcement comes on top of a deal inked in November between the Commission and Greek authorities that provides an €121 million EU funding for the construction of 3 new reception centers in Samos, Kos and Leros.

Thursday’s Memorandum of Cooperation was signed by the Home Affairs Commissioner, Ylva Johansson and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarakis, who said that the new “closed and controlled” facility will allow Greek authorities to permanently shut down the termporary facility at Mavrovouni, while it will also “act as a guide for similar centres on other Aegean islands.” 

The center will replace Moria camp, which was engulfed in fires in September, forcing almost 13,000 migrants to flee the place and search for a shelter in the streets, until a new draft camp was set up to host them. Over 400 unaccompanied children and teenagers were transferred to the mainland of Greece, with the country receiving over 170,000 items supplied by 13 member-states and the UK under the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism. 

It will be completed by early September 2021, with a hosting capacity of 5,000 people, while the duration of stays in the facilities will be shorter, up to a few months, until a decision either rejecting or approving requests for asylum is issued.

“With our agreement today, Europe and Greece are working hand in hand for the people on the islands,” von der Leyen said in a tweet after the memorandum was signed, adding that “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.”

EU Home Affairs Commissioner stated that “this is about people and their basic right to feel safe,” adding that “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.”



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