The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Filippo Grandi, visited Greece on 23-24 February, accompanied by the Director of UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Europe and Regional Refugee Coordinator, Mr. Vincent Cochetel. The High Commissioner visited Lesvos with the Alternate Minister of Migration Policy, Mr. Yiannis Mouzalas, where he expressed his gratitude to Lesvos’ residents and volunteers and confirmed UNHCR’s constant support. The High Commissioner warned that border closures in the European Union (EU) states would cause "further chaos and confusion" and would increase the burden on Greece "which is already shouldering a very big responsibility". At a press conference in Athens he highlighted the need to expand legal pathways and increase solidarity across Europe in addressing the refugee crisis.
With the growing numbers of child deaths at sea, UNHCR, UNICEF and IOM issued a call for enhancing safety for refugees and migrants. An average of two children have drowned daily since September 2015 while trying to cross the eastern Mediterranean. In total, more than 340 children, many of them babies and toddlers, have drowned in the eastern Mediterranean.
UNHCR shared its concern over the recent restrictive practices adopted in a number of European countries that are placing additional undue hardships on refugees and asylum-seekers across Europe, creating chaos at several border points, and putting pressure on Greece as it struggles to deal with large numbers of people in need of accommodation and services.