• Crisis Severity ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Impact ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Humanitarian Conditions ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Complexity ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Access Constraints ?
    No constraints
    Extreme constraints

Key figures

  • 332,000 People exposed [?]
  • 118,000 People displaced [?]



Since 2014 Greece has been an important country of first arrival and transit for refugees and migrants. In 2015, arrivals by land and sea reached its peak with almost 900,000 people, mainyl crossing from the Turkish coast to the Greek Aegean islands. ?

The combined effect of the 2016 EU-Turkey deal and the closure of borders in Eastern European countries caused a significant decrease in arrivals. However, a sharp increase in arrivals was recorded in 2019. In 2019, about 75,000 people arrived in Greece (ca. 60,000 by sea and 15,000 by land), compared to a total of 50,000 in 2018. More than 70% of those arriving in 2019 were from Afghanistan (37%), Syria (27%), and Democratic Republic of Congo (7%). ??? As of 31 January 2020, Greece counts 115,600 migrants and refugees – 74,400 in the mainland and 41,200 on the islands – an increase of over 30,000 since June 2019.??Reception centres on the islands are overcrowded with and conditions are dire with many refugees living in unsuitable tents or makeshift shelters. Medical assistance and WASH facilities are lacking. Women and girls face difficulties in safely accessing services. In December 2019, reception centers on the Greek islands, designed for 5,400 people, hosted over 36,000 people. ?

In 2019, Greece’s conservative government has announced a series of measures to address the critical situation on the Greek islands including the replacement of the open-air camps by closed installations hosting no more than 5,000 people. It has also passed a new asylum legislation aimed at containing the rising number of asylum seekers. Additionally, NGOs will have to meet new requirements to continue their operations in Greece. The planned reforms have been strongly condemned by aid organisations. ?

Latest Developments


12/03/2020 Tensions at the Greek-Turkish land border remain. A case of Coronavirus has been confirmed on Lesbos raising concerns over health risks for refugees in overcrowded camps, especially since NGOs limited their activities following violence against refugee shelters and aid workers. Additional concerns regard the situation of over 450 people detained on a Greek naval vessel in Mytilene port of Lesbos island who are not permitted to apply for asylum. Greek authorities reportedly also implement extrajudicial detention centers for migrants at the land border with Turkey.?

05/03/2020 An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people are at the border areas between Greece and Turkey as of 05 March, even though the exact numbers cannot be verified. Humanitarian actors report that people trapped at the border need shelter, food, and water. This is a result of the movement of thousands of asylum seekers and migrants towards Turkey’s Edirne province and towards Greek East Aegean islands via sea route, hoping to cross into Greece, after Turkey announced on 28 February the ease of controls at its north-west borders with Greece and Bulgaria. The Greek government announced on 1 March the suspension of all asylum applications for a month and said all arrivals will be arrested and forced to return. Tensions have escalated at the border crossings and in the islands. Clashes occurred between migrants and Greek authorities as well as local residents including attacks against aid workers.?

ACAPS' team is daily monitoring the impact of COVID-19. Find more information related to the outbreak here.

2020 Developments in the Greek Islands

3 Jan 2020

Based on the new 2019 asylum law, the Greek government released a list of 12 countries of origin considered safe for return. The list is intended to accelerate asylum processes and enable faster returns while refugee right groups fear that nationals of these countries will less likely be granted asylum.?

22 Jan 2020

Local councils of Chios, Lesbos, and Samos islands decided to hold a general strike in protests of the government’s management of refugee arrivals.?

3 Feb 2020

The Greek government announced plans to create a floating barrier to prevent migrants arriving from Turkey from reaching Greek islands. On the north eastern land border with Turkey, extra patrols by police and border guards have been launched and surveillance cameras along the border are planned to be installed soon.?

3 Feb 2020

About 2,000 migrants protested on Lesbos against their living conditions in overcrowded camps. Police used tear gas to disperse protesters.?

25 Feb 2020

The announced construction of a detention centre for refugees on Lesbos resulted in protests by islanders blocking the site. Police intervened with tear gas. Additionally, residents organized a general strike across the island.?



As of 16 April there are 32 confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the refugee and migrant population. Ritsona, Malakasa and Koutsochero refugee camps have been quarantined. Greece hosts around 74,400 refugees on the mainland and 41,200 on the islands. Refugees in camps are at high risk of acquiring infectious diseases due to crowded conditions and poor hygiene and sanitation systems.

On 17 March, the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum announced measures to prevent an outbreak in the refugee and migrant camps. Residents on the island refugee camps are only allowed to leave between certain hours to obtain food or other essential items. New arrivals will be transferred to the mainland, and visitors and NGOs are not allowed to enter the camps. A growing number of institutions and academics are calling for the evacuation of refugee camps.?

On 17 April authorities announced that around 2,300 refugees will be evacuated from the island camps to hotels in the mainland. The Greek government also announced that asylum services will continue to be suspended until 15 May.?

Find more information about the global impact of COVID-19 here.