The UNHCR has published a report on the situation of refugees on Lesvos (19 January 2009).
The number of irregular migrants and asylum seekers detained last year on Greece’s Lesvos Island after crossing from Turkey more than doubled from 6,147 in 2007 to 13,252, including thousands of children.
But there is only one detention centre on Lesvos and the increasing number of arrivals is putting an enormous strain on this facility, which is located at Pagani near the Lesvos capital of Mytilini. The centre has a capacity to hold 280 people; when a UNHCR team visited in late November, there were 990. A separate open facility for unaccompanied minors can hold 96 children.
Men, women and children are kept in detention on Lesvos for weeks and, in some, cases, months as the bureaucracy struggles to process them.
Aside from severe overcrowding, non-governmental organizations and other critics say the human rights of the detainees in Pagani are being violated because they are not allowed to exercise each day in the courtyard. The authorities say they do not have enough manpower to both supervise an outdoor activity period and guard the inmates.
Critics also say there are insufficient hygiene and sanitation facilities, with around 150 people having to share a bath and a lavatory. As a result, they say, the risk of epidemics and disease is very high. Moreover, there is only one doctor on call to deal with emergencies.