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Press Release

International Rescue Committee deploying emergency response team to Lesbos, Greece

Last updated 
  • IRC teams will develop infrastructure to provide access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for refugees on Lesbos with focus on local hiring and sourcing
  • IRC CEO: “Europe setting example of the wrong kind.”
  • European Countries Should Provide Aid to Support Refugees

The International Rescue Committee (IRC), a leading crisis-focused humanitarian relief and resettlement organization, is deploying a team to the Greek island of Lesbos to provide refugees there with urgently needed access to water and sanitation. The organization is also calling on European countries to support refugee relief efforts.

The 1,000 refugees arriving on the shores of Lesbos daily – sixty percent of whom are fleeing the Syrian crisis – have often had to walk approximately 40 miles to the nearest “transit” camp. However, neither the camp, nor communities along the route, have adequate water or sanitation facilities to accommodate the refugees. As a result, public health risks are high, most notably in Kara Tepe Camp where many toilets are inoperable.

In response, IRC teams will establish systems to deliver clean water to the refugee population and address emergency sanitation needs.

"The IRC's deployment of an emergency water and sanitation team to Lesbos is merited by the extreme needs, and high risks to health, on the ground,” said David Miliband, president and CEO of the IRC.

The IRC typically provides humanitarian relief in the poorest, most conflict-ridden places on earth; however, failing action by European countries, the organization has determined it must intervene in one of the world’s most developed and affluent continents.

“The requirement for IRC to deploy staff is a terrible commentary on the failure of European countries to meet immediate and basic needs of refugees in Lesbos,” said Miliband. “We are an NGO focused on the victims of conflict in the poorest countries in the world, from Niger to Afghanistan to the Middle East, yet Europe's inability to support Greece means we have to send staff to the richest region in the world. Europe is setting an example to the rest of the world – of exactly the wrong kind."

The IRC said it will also seek to contribute to the local economy by seeking to hire local residents and source materials at the local level.

Images available for download here. Please credit “International Rescue Committee, July 2015”

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 26 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.