Lesvos CCAP, Kara Tepes, Mavrovouni

27% of the total number of arrivals in 2022 entered Lesvos. The structure is located in the Mavrovouni location, about 5 km away from the centre of Mytilene. It began its operation as a Temporary Accommodation Structure for Asylum Seekers after the destruction of the Reception and Identification Centre in Moria from a fire in September 2020, and has since functioned as the Reception and Identification Centre of Mytilini (RIC Lesvos). In November 2022, the structure was transformed from a Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) to a Closed Controlled Access Centre (CCAC). It is located in a former shooting range and is very close to the sea, exposed to the weather conditions, especially to the north wind and dust, which makes living there really difficult.

We note that the structure has reached the upper limit of its actual capacity

(Lesvos Inter-agency coordination meeting, 27 March 2023)​


According to the Special Secretariat for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum[1], there were 95 unaccompanied minors on March 9 in Lesvos CCAC, 55 of whom lived in the “safe area” with a nominal capacity of 100 children.

There are worrying reports that unaccompanied minors, including unaccompanied girls, remain after arrival in the CCAC, often for an unspecified period of time, at periods when accommodation facilities for unaccompanied minors are full. RSA also points out that survivors of shipwrecks, belonging to a vulnerable group due to the state of danger they have experienced and because they often have lost family members, are driven to the CCAC immediately after their rescue, without receiving special reception conditions.

Regarding alternative forms of housing on the island, according to the UNHCR[2], the local NGO Iliaktida provides a structure for unaccompanied minors and IOM operates the “safe area” for unaccompanied minors. In addition, Diotima operates a programme for emergency housing for gender violence survivors, while the local NGO Solidarity Lesvos operates a housing programme for single women or/and with very young children. Finally, there are more than 220 people who have found housing on their own.

Within the CCAC, METAdrasi NGO provides non-formal education courses for minors and adults, while a few students attend evening schools. There is, however, an improvement over 2022 with regard to the participation of refugee children residing in CCAC in formal education, while at the same time, there are constant transfers of the children, since a significant number of the residents are transferred to structures in the mainland. In mid-March, out of 250 children at the age of compulsory education (4-14), 210 were enrolled in public schools, 150 were actually studying and 60 were on hold. Out of the 50 children in the 15-17 age group, 15 were enrolled and only 5 attended courses.

Difficult living conditions

The newcomers to Lesvos, before their official registration, resided quarantined in rubhalls[3] in the CCAC at least until the end of March 2023, with the exception of those who are transferred to the Controlled Facility for Temporary Accommodation of West Lesvos. According to testimonies from cases legally handled by RSA, there were cases in the previous period when newcomers had to sleep on mattress-free palettes and at particularly low temperatures.

There are shortages in hot water, children’s milk and bed linen, poor quality of mattresses, as well as complaints about the quality of food. Residents and people working in the structure speak of very frequent power cuts in addition to general problems. They also refer to economic hardship due to inability to find a job. Sabira*, an Afghan woman who has been living with her husband and three children for 5 months in a container, tells to RSA[4]: “We have no help. We used to be given shampoos and dish detergent, but now we receive nothing. There’s no organisation to help us here. (…) We have received the financial allowance only for 2 months. We used it to buy shampoo and internet access. Money is not enough. (…) My children need to take something to school for food, and we have nothing to give them. Not enough water is given to us, they only give us one bottle a day for each person.” Significant deficiencies are observed in adult empowerment and reception activities within the structure, aggravating the mental state of the residents. “One day spends like a year,” the woman adds.

On Lesvos, as in all CCAC, there are conditions of constant control, surveillance and repression, while actors in the field of protection report an increase in cases of violence and domestic violence. The mental state of many residents is especially burdened: “There are people who once they arrive on the island they are being chased by hooded people [in the context of informal forced return operations[5]]. They’re very traumatised. They constantly live in fear and insecurity” an employee emphasises to RSA.

Significant shortages of health and interpreting staff

Despite the relative improvement of housing conditions in relation to the notorious structure in Moria, the situation within the CCAC of Lesvos is particularly worrying, mainly due to the lack of medical staff, psychologists and interpreters. At the end of March there were only two National Public Health Organisation doctors inside the CCAC and the procedure for identifying vulnerability was very problematic. There is also reference to huge gaps in interpretation and shortages of personnel at the Reception and Identification Service.

There are people who have been granted refugee status and they have the document in their hand, and they don’t know what it writes and that they have been granted asylum,” a person working in an organisation tells us. We should also note that the National Public Health Organisation stated that from January 11, 2023 and until further notice, its Psychosocial Unit would not accept requests for psychological support due to lack of interpreters. By the end of March the provision of interpretation to the Unit had not been fully restored, resulting in significant gaps. The problems are exacerbated by the significant burden, due to the lack of staff, of the already understaffed general hospital of the island, causing reactions by the residents. In addition to this structure, Médecins Sans Frontières provides medical services and so does INTERSOS organisation with mental health and psychosocial support programmes. Regarding the effects of the security and surveillance regime within the CCAC on the physical and mental health of residents, Apostolos Veizis, doctor and general director of INTERSOS HELLAS, says to RSA: “Uncertainty, lack of health services, general lack of support services for these people, have serious consequences. We have seen in people who have had traumas, those traumas growing, and we have seen people who were healthy, then ailing, physically and mentally, under those circumstances. After the sessions in our centre these people have to go back to the CCAC, to the same place where the pain is ‘produced’.”

Problems with access to lawyers

Since the summer of 2022 and until the end of the year, there were significant problems in the access of lawyers within the structure. As RSA has pointed out in a joint submission along with the organisation HIAS to the European Ombudsman, lawyers wishing to enter the structure, had to submit a “request of entry” for each one beneficiary they wished to visit, at least one day in advance, in order to receive the “necessary approval” from the Administration of the CCAC. Beneficiaries also had to have given to the lawyers a signed authorisation in order for them to get an admission of entry – even for their first contact with them. These problems seem to have been solved for the time being after the reaction of the organisations in the field and the invocation of the opinion of the Athens Bar Association towards the Ministry of Migration and Asylum. At the present stage, for lawyers to enter, they must only show their lawyers’ identity.

According to the UNHCR[6], free legal services within the CCAC were provided in mid-March in the UNHCR Protection Centre on a daily basis, starting 10 a.m. by 5 pm, and alternately by the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) with a Greek lawyer, METAdrasi with two Greek lawyers and the European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL) with two Greek lawyers. Furthermore, as the UNHCR points out, apart from the ordinary presence of the aforementioned institutions, all legal assistance organisations in Lesvos have agreed to share their contact details in a “leaflet of legal assistance organisations”, which is available in eight languages and distributed by the UNHCR to all newcomers on the island, before registration by the Greek authorities, and at any other time that the residents in the CCAC request information for legal assistance by the UNHCR. Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) is among the organisations that offer free legal assistance to CCAC residents on a permanent basis.

The Black Hole of the Controlled Facility for Temporary Accommodation of West Lesvos

The Controlled Facility for Temporary Accommodation of West Lesvos (Megala Therma or Kastelia) is complementary to the CCAC of Lesvos (Mavrovouni)[7]. The newcomers arriving within the Municipality of West Lesvos are transferred there. Although it is now officially under the jurisdiction and responsibility of the Reception and Identification Service of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum[8], this structure does not abide by the prescribed registration and identification procedure and the identification of vulnerable cases, nor does it provide for appropriate reception conditions, with residents remaining in isolation from the outside world. The structure is located in a rented space in a remote area and receives people who have just arrived on the island. A deputy commander has recently been appointed there, but there is no administrative staff of the Reception and Identification Service on a 24-hour basis[9]. At the end of 2022, two posts of specialised security personnel were provided for 24/7, as well as one post for general cleaning and disinfection duties, for 14 hours a day[10]. The duration of these services was set on January 1, 2023 and ended on March 31, 2023. For the remaining hours and at a distance from the site, there is Greek Police staff, who cannot, however, de facto, respond to any urgent medical needs.

In this structure there is no medical or nursing staff, despite the fact that it is located more than 50 km from the Lesvos General Hospital “Vostanio” and about 30 km from the Kalloni Health Centre. The National Public Health Organisation Unit visits the structure in order to perform tests for Covid-19 and the Médecins Sans Frontières mobile unit visits the residents twice a week.

This structure was originally intended for a short stay of people. Even today, the necessary material living conditions are not provided, since it is located in a fenced open-air area, within walking distance from the sea and exposed to weather conditions. The individual parts within the structure are separated by barbed wire and people cannot move even within the structure, as the residents do not have the option of exiting the fenced area designated for them. Within each distinct fenced section, there have been placed plastic huts (RHUs/Refugee Housing Units) without beds, where residents reside in overcrowded conditions and without meeting the minimum standards of safe accommodation. There are makeshift faucets/showers/toilets inside the area, while there is insufficient access to basic sanitation. Access to hot water is also extremely limited given the often large number of people living there. Electricity is provided by a generator for a few hours a day, with no provision for heating or cooling.

Newcomers are in fact kept in the structure arbitrarily without any information provided to them, without any relevant decision and without respecting the strict guarantees of legislation on imposing administrative detention or at least the restriction of liberty within the structure applicable during the reception and identification procedure, without initiating reception and identification procedures and without being notified of documents for them to know their legal status. Since November 2022, this informal detention usually takes five days and at least until a Covid-19 test is carried out. The actual time spent there, however, is unspecified and extended when no places are available in the CCAC, a phenomenon which was observed at the end of March in cases supported by RSA. The result is that people are arbitrarily detained without a formal reason, without a legal procedure, for a period which is not counted, albeit should, in the maximum number of 25 days of their ‘restriction of liberty’, as provided for in the Asylum Code.

Temporary break for the EU-funded superstructure in Vastria by the Council of State

H υπό κατασκευή νέα ΚΕΔ στη Βάστρια

The Greek government aimed to inaugurate the new CCAC in the Vastria region and close the structure in Mavrovouni before Easter 2023. The new structure, despite the strong reactions of the local society, was located on an area of about 240 acres in a remote district in Northern Lesvos next to the landfill, and has a budget of EUR 76 million plus VAT. It is adjacent to a protected NATURA area and is 100% funded directly by the European Union through the Emergency Support Mechanism. The workings for its construction were conducted at an intensive pace in the previous autumn, despite the fact that a request for suspension had been submitted by the Northern Aegean Region and the neighbouring communities of Komi and N. Kydonia in the Council of State, while the issuance of the necessary Environmental Impact Assessment and the approval of the fire protection study were also pending. The Mytilene City Council in early February issued a unanimous negative opinion on the delayed Environmental Impact Assessment for Vastria and recommended the Region to reject it on grounds of public interest. The reactions from local factors are also strong, accusing the Minister of Migration and Asylum of lying.

The Council of State, in its interim decision (199/19.12.2022), upheld the application on the part examined related to the route of access to the Vastria structure, prohibiting its construction until the final judgement of the court on the application for annulment. The court upheld that the construction of the road would lead to irreversible destruction of the forest wealth and rare avifauna of the protected area. At the beginning of February, the Minister of Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarakis stated that the project had reached 50% of its technical completion and is in the phase of full completion within 2023. At the end of March, and despite legal impediments, the construction continued on even non-working days.

Capturing the change of the natural landscape due to the construction of the new Lesvos CCAC in Vastria through satellite imagery.

The structure is designed to have a nominal force of 3,000 people, with the prospect of infrastructure being increased to nominal capacity of 5,000 or more people, while, within the same area, a Pre-Removal Detention Centre (PROKEKA) is also planned, that will have an initial nominal capacity of 2,000 people, which can also reach 5,000. As a result, the total nominal capacity of the two structures can easily reach or even exceed 10,000 people. There are serious concerns that, due to the remote location, there will be no information and control on what will happen there, and of course there will be no potential for social pre-inclusion of refugees. There are also serious concerns regarding safety and forest fires. “We are opposed to this construction in the heart of the biggest pine forest of the Aegean, since the risk of fire in these structures is very high, as we all know, and if, in the summer, a fire starts from there, it will burn thousands of acres of virgin forest and risk people’s lives, as escape routes for so many thousands of people are problematic” Michalis Bakas, environmentalist and coordinator of the Ecologist Greens in Lesvos, points out in RSA.


*Names have been changed for privacy and security reasons.


  1. Written response to RSA on March 16, 2023, with the clarification that in Lesvos, along with the safe area within the structure, there is a place of unaccompanied minors accommodation. This 40-person capacity space operates under the Ministry of Migration and Asylum with the cooperation of the IOM. 40 unaccompanied minors are currently housed there. The discrepancy between all unaccompanied minors and those living in a safe area refers to minors separated by a temporary custody act.

  2. Information from the UNHCR written response to RSA on March 16, 2023.

  3. Particularly large, shifting structure like a tent, often used in emergency situations.

  4. Interview by telephone, March 7, 2023.

  5. According to reports, apart from cases of informal forced returns during sea operations, in Lesvos there have been recorded informal forced returns even of people who had already arrived in Lesvos and stayed in the quarantine area in West Lesvos. See here and here (p. 21-22).

  6. Ibid. 2.

  7. Founded by Article 34 para. 1 case c’ PD 106/2020.

  8. Article 12 PD. 77/17.11.2022 (FEK A ‘212/2022), that amended Article 34 PD. 106/2020.

  9. Decision under protocol number 747752/12.12.2022 of the Secretary-General for the reception of asylum seekers is relevant, available here.

  10. See the decision under protocol number 750660 of the Secretary-General for Migration Policy.

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Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) 2023

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