International Rescue Committee (IRC)

IRC: Refugees Continue to Surge into Lesbos Despite Onset of Winter; Lack of European Support Hindering Overall Response

30 Oct 2015 - 
  • New IRC survey of refugees in Turkey reveals refugees won’t be deterred by worsening weather
  • The IRC will expand operations; expanding staff on the ground to 200
  • IRC President and CEO David Miliband said: “These terrible drownings will not be the last – unless there is a quantum shift in the breadth and depth of European effort. Prime Minister Tsipras is right to speak of European shame. Now we need European action. IRC is on the front line of this crisis and has been warning that humanitarian efforts are too ad hoc and too inadequate.”

Lesbos, Greece – The International Rescue Committee today said that, despite high seas and cooler temperatures, refugee arrivals in Lesbos surged during October to approximately 125,000 – double that of August. With tragic news of at least 15 people, including children, drowned in the eastern Aegean Sea on Wednesday, and reports of a further 22 deaths on Thursday and Friday, with many more missing.

The IRC praised local partners and volunteer groups for efforts to support the humanitarian response, but said that a lack of support from Europe is hampering relief efforts, noting that elements of humanity and dignity are missing as thousands of refugees are without shelter, basic supplies and food, and safety.

The International Rescue Committee’s regional refugee representative Kirk Day said, “Already, for far, far too long the response has been led by selfless, committed volunteers and charity groups all along the route to Europe— filling the massive gaps left by individual states and the EU as a whole. As governments look the other way, refugees are dying. But, the response desperately needs the political will of the EU, and in particular, properly resourced and well-conceived action to ensure the humane reception of refugees. The scale of the crisis demands nothing less.” 

The IRC is concerned that more people will be exposed to increased risk as they come at night, in bigger boats, and with higher numbers of women and children who are following fathers who have typically made the journey first to establish a route.

The IRC has also released results of a new survey after interviewing more than 800 Syrian refugee families, uncovering the reasons why refugees are embarking on the perilous journey. 

Last week IRC also launched the proto-type of, in partnership with Google and Mercy Corps – a website accessible by mobile phone that provides critical information to refugees arriving in Europe. In the coming weeks the website will expand to provide information for additional locations along the route.

For further enquiries or to set up interviews with IRC spokespeople please email (New York) and (Lesbos)

About the International Rescue Committee

The International Rescue Committee helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future. IRC teams provide health care, infrastructure, learning and economic support to people in 40 countries, with special programs designed for women and children. Every year, the IRC resettles thousands of refugees in 22 U.S. cities. Learn more at and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.