Summary of Appeal
This Operations Update no. 4 is to report on the implementation progress of activities from 3 June – 3 September 2016 against the revised Emergency Appeal which was published in May 2016. Another revision of this appeal will follow in the coming months to take into account the current operational needs in view of the evolving situation.
As of 5 September, more than 59,000 migrants are stranded in the mainland and islands in Greece, with some 8,000 migrants accommodated in the housing scheme of UNHCR’s relocation programme2. In March this year, the border closures and new restrictions caused a sharp decline of migrant arrivals in the following months.
However, during the period of June to August, migrant arrivals resumed an upward trend (although significantly lesser than the same time last year) reporting an average daily sea arrivals of 52 in June, 62 in July and more than 100 daily arrivals in August and September. This increase of arrivals coupled with slow transfers to the mainland, is causing serious challenges with capacity and shelter allocation at the Reception and Identification Centres (RIC) on the islands. The maximum capacity on the five islands remains 7,450 while the total presence on the islands showed 12,429 as of 4 September3.
During the reporting period, the Greek government released a list of 40 sites that will be upgraded to serve as longer term accommodation for the migrant population. Following this list, many questions remain unanswered, such as the disputable conditions of the majority of the sites listed; unclear plans and timing regarding the enhancement of those 40 sites; as well as the transition process of the migrant population. It is anticipated that many of the sites will not be ready in time for winter in December.
On 25 July, the Greek Asylum Service concluded its pre-registration exercise of 27,592 migrants. Following this, first appointments have been scheduled to begin in September for the full lodging of asylum claims throughout the mainland for pre-registered asylum-seekers. The UNHCR supported the Asylum Service by informing asylum-seekers about their appointments through various channels such as initiating an SMSsystem, calling applicants directly in cooperation with the EASO call-team, posting announcements at various reception sites of the appointment schedules, and disseminating information through UNHCR field teams and partners on site. In addition to the appointment lists posted in sites, UNHCR has created and shared a FAQ document on the registration process for asylum-seekers in relevant languages. As of 5 September a total of over 3,000 asylum-seekers against the targeted 66,400 (by September 2017), have been relocated from Greece to other EU countries since the beginning of the relocation programme in November 2015.
While the Greek government is continuously dedicating efforts in improving site conditions, they remain inadequate. The overcrowding and sub-standard conditions of the sites, lengthiness of the asylum registration and processing, inter-ethnic clashes, growing distrust of the migrant population towards humanitarian agencies, coordination challenges as well as the increasing lack of tolerance from the host communities arecontributing to escalating security incidents in the previous few months. All these not only significantly undermine the humanitarian operations in delivering much needed services on the ground, but more importantly, pose severe physical, emotional and mental health risks to the migrant population, in particular to the vulnerable.