Photo: Jan Grarup

The Danish Refugee Council leaves Lesvos

After four years, the Danish Refugee Council will close its Lesvos sub-office, but humanitarian support is still urgently needed.


The continuous struggle to secure institutional funding and ultimately a funding gap has led to the decision of the Danish Refugee Council to close its Lesvos sub-office. However, despite DRC’s decision, there is still an urgent need to support thousands of people stranded on the island.

“Unfortunately, we have taken the difficult decision to close our Lesvos sub-office. Despite generous private donations earmarked to alleviate persisting needs, institutional funding opportunities are increasingly scarce, and we are no longer able to maintain the administrative and physical set-up required to efficiently assist those in need,” says DRC Greece Country Director Kyriakos Giaglis.

“Any remaining funds from private donations will of course still benefit those in need – either in mainland Greece, where help is also urgently needed, or in the Moria site distributed with the help of local partners,” says Kyriakos Giaglis.

DRC launched its activities on Lesvos in November 2015 due to the unprecedented number of refugees and migrants reaching the Greek islands. The organization initially focused on establishing the conditions for an effective response in cooperation with the Greek authorities and other actors.

“DRC was there to support hundreds of thousands of refugees as a humanitarian crisis unfolded in Greece. We provided legal assistance and support to the most vulnerable,” says Kyriakos Giaglis.

Shelter, legal aid and winter clothes

In the Moria site, DRC supported the identification of vulnerable people, and assisted them by providing information, counselling and shelter management until the Greek authorities took over responsibility for the hotspots at the end June 2017.  

After the closure of the Balkan countries’ borders and the EU – Turkey Statement, DRC maintained the legal aid and protection activities in Moria. Since then, our teams have delivered more than 1300 legal consultations and assisted more than 660 people with their case.

In December 2019 and January 2020, generous donations from private persons have so far enabled DRC to distribute 1600 non-food items such as winter clothes and blankets. DRC has also supported the most vulnerable with direct referrals to service providers, accompaniment and interpretation services, and will continue to seek ways of offering support through partners still working in Lesvos.

Urgent need for long term solutions

To this day, large – often life-threatening – gaps remain in service provision and protection of people in Moria where 19,000 live in cramped conditions. Protests took place recently on Lesvos, Chios and Samos islands and the heads of local authorities delivered a petition to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis against the mounting pressure of arrivals and the plans for new closed centers.

Therefore, despite its departure from the island, the Danish Refugee Council will continue to work for dignified living conditions for refugees and migrants and advocate for their rights across Greece.

“We will continue to advocate for humane conditions, quality asylum procedures and against the continuous overcrowding which is the result of EU policies. More than the immediate relief measures urgently needed for the safety and well-being of thousands on the islands, Greek and EU leaders should work towards long term solutions to finally break the vicious cycle of overcrowding,” says Kyriakos Giaglis.