Greece + 8 more

UNHCR Regional Bureau Europe: Weekly Report (February 24, 2017 5:24 PM)


Trends of Sea Arrivals

During this period, 189 refugees and migrants crossed the sea to Greece– a slight decrease from the 207 that crossed the previous week. So far in 2017, 2,053 people have arrived in Greece, of these 1,393 arrived in January and 660 have arrived up to 19 February. The number of sea arrivals fluctuated between 0 arrivals (13-18 February) and 57 (15 February). During the week, Kastelorizo recorded the majority of estimated sea arrivals (95), followed by Lesvos (93). Comparing with the previous week the average number of daily arrivals was decreased from 30 to 24.
In the same week, 594 refugees and migrants arrived by sea to Italy – a substantial decrease from the 1,018 whom arrived the previous week – with no arrivals taking place for four days of the week. The majority of arrivals in the week disembarked on 19 February after having been rescued in six search and rescue operations.
New arrivals departed from Libya and mainly originate from sub-Saharan African countries, but also include persons from Syria, Bangladesh and northern African countries. Between 1 January and 17 February 2017, 9,426 persons arrived to Italy by sea, compared to 6,589 arriving in the same period of last year (plus 43%).
A tragic incident at sea occurred on 15 February when a boat capsized near the Moroccan coast leaving nine dead and two others in need of rescuing by the Spanish Rescue Agency. Thus far in 2017, 274* persons have been reported dead or missing while crossing the Mediterranean Sea compared to 415 during the first two months of 2016.

Key Developments

Situation in Greece

Greek authorities and humanitarian actors continued to improve conditions and shelter in priority sites, particularly in a number of Reception and Identification Centres (RIC) on the islands, where overcrowding remained a serious concern (Lesvos, Samos, Chios). UNHCR, in coordination with the government, continued to prioritise transfers from inadequate shelter to improved sites and UNHCR’s accommodation scheme, especially from the islands to the mainland.
By 20 February, 19,720 places were available and 26,389 people had benefitted from apartments and buildings, hotels, host families, shelters for unaccompanied and separated children (UASC), and relocation sites, through UNHCR’s Relocation and Accommodation Scheme. In total,
UNHCR has assisted with the transfer through KEPOM of over 5,556 people including 2,305 under UNHCR’s Accommodation Scheme, 1,245 through KEPOM, and providing 2,006 ferry tickets since June 2016. During the reporting week 281 individuals were assisted and transferred (90 Lesvos, 79 Chios, 19 Samos, 65 Leros, and 4 Rhodes).
On Lesvos, the first four two-storey containers were installed at RIC Moria, where 49 two-storey and 20 single prefabricated houses are planned. Across Greece, UNHCR continued to install prefabricated houses, with 924 out of a planned 1,400 installed to date.
UNHCR, in coordination with the Ministry of Migration Policy (MoMP), also made progress on infrastructure support, particularly in WASH upgrades for RIC Moria. At the temporary Olive Grove site, where 214 people were hosted, heating and electricity remained a challenge. UNHCR, through its partnership with Samaritan’s Purse (SP), was seeking solutions including by purchasing an additional generator, to supplement the existing one provided by IRC UNHCR with SP, conducted further assessments of infrastructural and WASH needs at both RIC Vial on Chios and RIC Vathy on Samos. There is a continuing danger of refugees and migrants using makeshift electrical connections where heating was insufficient. UNHCR is continuing to make referrals and transfers of people to improved accommodation.

In Northern Greece, efforts continued by UNHCR, authorities, and partners, to fully or partially evacuate unsuitable sites and move people to improved accommodation.
The ‘Warehouse Site’ SK Market – Kalochori, among other sites, was fully evacuated on 16 February and will undergo infrastructure works by the Army before reopening. In Frakapor, the remaining population decreased to 57 people, following the transfer of 26 people to hotels in Grevena, and apartments in Katerini and Athens. Plans have not been announced to evacuate Softex and Derveni, where 300 and 110 people remain respectively. However, UNHCR continued with transfers from those sites, with 35 people transferred during the reporting period.
UNHCR continued consultations with authorities on the required reception accommodation capacity in Greece for 2017, including reception needs for UASC.
In addition to improved living spaces, transfers of people to better sites and to more appropriate shelter, and the increase of government staffing levels, UNHCR and partners still advocate with authorities at the local and central level to further improve security and access to services throughout all sites in Greece. Despite these interventions,
UNHCR still observes gaps and challenges that exposed people to safety and protection risks at locations such as Elliniko.
UNHCR prepared and shared with the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) Sub-Working Group (national) a trends and patterns analysis based on the SGBV incidents reported to UNHCR during the second semester of 2016. The main findings of the analysis were: 336 reported incidents; 57% of incidents happened in Greece; 84% of survivors were women and girls; 3% were children from 0 to 11 years old; 13% from 12 to 17 years old; 84% adults. The majority of reported incidents involved physical assault and the affected person received or was referred to medical treatment and psychosocial support.
The analysis showed that in 68% of cases, the authorities had taken safety and security measures. The Working Group discussed the benefits and challenges to establish an evaluation mechanism on the quality of SGBV-related services by survivors and agreed that UNHCR will host a half-day workshop on methodology that can be used for such an assessment. In Northern Greece, the SGBV Sub-Working Group finalized and endorsed SGBV SOPs for Northern Greece.
UNHCR and Save the Children, inaugurated on 16 February, an educational space for refugee and migrant children on Leros island. The non-formal educational space, ‘LEDU’, aims to enhance the skills of up to 170 refugee students, aged 6-18 years old, and establish a connection to the official national education system, under the Greek Ministry of Education. According to the Greek Education Ministry, about 2,500 refugee children are currently attending public schools on mainland Greece. Under an education programme of the Education Ministry launched in October 2016, refugee and migrant children can enroll in designated schools on the Greek mainland.
The programme is open to refugee and migrant children staying in open accommodation sites on the mainland and to the urban population on the mainland (private accommodation/accommodation scheme).

Update on Returns from Greece to Turkey

In the reporting period, one return operation was carried out from Greece to Turkey. According to Greek authorities, five non-Syrian males (three from Algeria and two from Bangladesh) were returned from Mytilene, Lesvos to Dikili on 17 February by boat. Out of the five, two had their asylum claims rejected at second instance while one had withdrawn his asylum application in Greece and the other two had revoked their willingness to apply for asylum in Greece.
The total number of readmissions to Turkey from Greece is 894 as of 19 February.

Situation in Serbia

The estimated number of refugees and migrants present in Serbia was close to 7,700 according to available data from authorities, UNHCR and partners. Of those present in the country, 86% are accommodated in 17 governmental facilities, while the remainder were sleeping rough in Belgrade city centre or in the North of the country.
In support of access to better accommodation and services,
UNHCR and partners assisted newly-registered asylum-seekers with transport from Belgrade to government centres. UNHCR continued supporting the refurbishment of capacities in the new Obrenovac centre near Belgrade. Small groups of men and boys are making use of governmental transport from the city centre, while some also went to Obrenovac spontaneously, requesting accommodation. The number of men and boys accommodated in Obrenovac thus rose from 574 two weeks ago to 794.
Around 2,700 refugees and migrants were present in Belgrade, of which over 840 sleeping rough in the city centre. On 15 February, UNHCR and partners surveyed refugee and migrant men squatting in all known locations in Belgrade city centre, and counted a total of 841, all males. With successful transfers to Obrenovac and other governmental shelters, the number of unaccompanied and separated boys amongst them had dropped to 41 (or 12%). Of the total, 40% who were willing to be surveyed, 87% claimed to be from Afghanistan and 13% from Pakistan. Among them, 12% indicated they were willing to transfer into any government shelter immediately and 17% perhaps, depending on the shelter, while 49% stated they did not want to move to any governmental shelter but prefer to stay in the city centre instead.
With persistent low temperatures, the number of those present in makeshift sites outside the Hungarian transit zones remained low, with thirteen asylum-seekers awaiting admission to Hungary near Kelebije (6) and Horgos (7) border-crossings.


During the week, Hungarian officials admitted 50 people into the transit zones at the border with Serbia granting them access to seek asylum in Hungary. In addition, the Hungarian police reported 61 apprehensions for irregular entry, while 579 people were prevented from crossing the green border and another 296 people were intercepted inside Hungary and expelled back to the other side of the border control fence. The border police, the military, Immigration and Asylum Office (IAO), the Constitution Protection Office (CPO), and the Government’s Office which provides legal information maintains presence inside the transit zones. UNHCR has been conducting daily visits to the transit zones and providing asylum-seekers with information and counselling on their rights and obligations, Dublin procedures and on the implications of the safe third country notion.
On 14 February, with the intention to further restrict access to territory and asylum procedures in Hungary the government submitted a new package of legislative amendments, including through use of mandatory detention.
UNHCR is analysing the proposed amendments and reiterates its position on the Guidelines on the Applicable Criteria and Standards relating to the Detention of Asylum Seekers and Alternatives to Detention previously issued.

Update on Relocation

During the week, 419 asylum-seekers were relocated from Italy to Belgium (29), Finland (145), Germany (186),
Portugal (8) and Switzerland (51) bringing total relocations from Italy since the beginning of the relocation scheme to 3,624 (9% of the 39,600 initial target). No UASC have been relocated from Italy yet. (latest EC data, 20 February).
A total of 309 asylum-seekers were relocated from Greece during the week to Belgium (58), Ireland (40),
Malta (15), Netherlands (72), Portugal (51), Slovakia (7), and Spain (66). As of 19 February, 9,157 asylum-seekers have been relocated from Greece representing only 13.7% of the 66,400 initial target.

EU Related Developments

On 15 February, FRONTEX published its annual Risk Analysis for 2017. The report first gives a situational overview of 2016, focusing on areas of interest for Frontex (border checks, cross-border crime, secondary movements and returns). The report then proposes featured analyses, focusing for example on coast guard activities in the Central Mediterranean, smuggling in Libya, as well as safety and security in reception centres in the EU.
On 16 February, in plenary session, Members of the European Parliament adopted the European Parliament’s position on the European Commission’s proposal on reinforcing checks against relevant databases at external borders. The proposal now needs to be formally adopted by the Council before it can be implemented.