Swiss help boost water supply in new Lesbos refugee camp

The Swiss water provision system in action on Friday Billi Bierling/SHA

Water ‘bladders’, sent from Switzerland, have begun providing drinking water at a new refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. The original Moria camp was all but destroyed by a fire last week.

This content was published on September 18, 2020 - 14:02
SHA/swissinfo.ch/ilj

In total 16 bladders - rubber containers that hold water - have arrived at the camp, said Billi Bierling, who represents the Swiss Humanitarian Unit (SHA) at the location. “They can hold water to supply 10,000 people with clean drinking water,” she told swissinfo.ch on Friday. The water comes from the island and has been chlorinated.

Water is a key need as temperatures regularly hit 35 degrees centigrade on the island. It is also needed for hygiene, she added.

Bierling said that the SHA was able to send the material from Switzerland and get it working within 72 hours of offering the service to the Greek authorities.

More than 12,000 people - mostly refugees from Afghanistan, Africa, and Syria - were left without shelter, proper sanitation, or access to food and water after the blaze on September 9.

The Temporary Registration and Identification Centre (TRIC), on the coast of the island, has been set up as a new camp, which currently holds around 3,000 people.

“At the moment we are involved in supporting the Greek authorities in planning the site and are assessing what other aid we can provide in the area of health,” said Bierling. Swiss expertise will continue to be employed in building up water supply capacity.

Situation

On Tuesday, Switzerland announced further assistance to Lesbos, which includes water systems, tents and several generators. A tonne of aid materials has already been sent and a budget of up to CHF1 million ($1.1 million) has been set aside to meet urgent needs.

The Greek authorities believe the fires were set deliberately by a small group of migrants angered by Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, imposed after an outbreak in the camp. Six Afghans, including two minors, have been arrested on suspicion of arson.

Moria had a capacity of just over 2,700 people, but more than 12,500 had been living in and around it when it burned down. The camp had been held up by critics as a symbol of Europe’s failed migration policies.

Share this story