Greece + 8 more

UNHCR Regional Bureau Europe: Weekly Report (February 3, 2017 1:29 PM)


Key Figures

arrivals by sea in 2017

dead/missing in 2017

Trends of Sea Arrivals

Between 23 and 29 January, 254 refugees and migrants crossed the sea to Greece from Turkey - on par with the 251 whom crossed the previous week. As of 29 January there have been a total of 1,203 sea arrivals in 2017, a decrease from the 1,665 whom arrived the previous month. While Lesvos recorded the majority of estimated sea arrivals during the week, an increase of arrivals to Kastelorizo was noted during the course of January. Almost half of the arrivals to Kastelorizo since August last year took place between December 2016 and January 2017, marking an increase of arrivals to this location in comparison to previous months.

In the same week, 1,852 persons (including 278 unaccompanied and separated children, i.e. 15%) arrived to Italy after having been rescued. This is a large increase from the 38 who arrived the previous week. So far in January 2017, 4,243 persons arrived by sea, which is on par with the 4,071 whom arrived by 27 during the same month in 2016. However, this is still lower than the 5,273 who arrived at the end of January last year. On 28 January, 39 Iraqi and Iranian nationals were intercepted by the authorities near Crotone, after they had autonomously reached the shore having departed from Turkey six days earlier. The majority of the new arrivals among this group were of Kurdish origin from Iraq. However, the overall top countries of origin among arrivals to Italy include Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Nigeria.

Despite the winter weather, sea arrivals to mainland Spain have been observed in January with an estimated 900-1,000 people having crossed by sea this month. The number of people crossing by sea to the Spanish mainland increased by 85% last year from 3,764 in 2015 to 6,979 in 2016. During the last weeks of January, eight corpses, including that of a 6 year old child, were found and at least seven are reported to be missing in the waters or in the beaches of Cádiz (southern Spain). Thus far, there have been reports of 254 persons dead or missing at sea in 2017. Majority of these incidents (87%) have occurred along the central Mediterranean Sea route.

Key Developments

Situation in Greece

Reception and Identification Centres (RICs) on the Aegean islands continue to face serious challenges with capacity and shelter allocation for people present there, irrespective of new arrivals. Last week, two men, sharing a tent in Moria RIC, passed away. Clinical examinations are still establishing the cause of death. Another two men were admitted in intensive care for inhaling carbon monoxide on 30 January. UNHCR stands ready to support authorities in providing assistance and establishing preventive safety measures for those residing in tents. Following these incidents, a group of Moria residents protested outside the RIC. Community leaders met in an effort to defuse tensions and discuss the present situation. Representatives from the police, UNHCR, European Commission, Registration and Identification Service (RIS) attended the meeting, which was held in Moria. UNHCR has agreed to support the authorities with shelter solutions, but any substantial improvement can be made only if people are moved out of the site and there is a clear process of population management of the site by the authorities. Once population management is properly structured, UNHCR’s planned intervention includes the gradual installation of 49 two-story and 22 single prefabricated housing units at the site and other infrastructure works in cooperation with the Greek Army.

On Samos, overcrowding and poor weather continues contribute to insufficient protection and a strained living environment in Vathy RIC, as well as in the temporary ‘extended area’. Alongside partner Samaritan’s Purse (SP), UNHCR offered support to authorities by carrying out various construction works providing additional shelter and mitigation measures to flooding. One Iraqi Kurdish man passed away in the Vathy public hospital on 25 January. Whilst the official cause of death remains unknown, it is presumed that he had a heart attack. UNHCR is coordinating support with partners for his wife and three children. The same day, three attempted suicides were reported at the RIC. UNHCR is highly concerned about the lack of emergency accommodation for extremely vulnerable and urgent cases, such as shipwreck survivors and survivors of sexual gender based violence. Based on a framework agreement previously held with a local travel agency those with specific needs on Samos were provided with alternative accommodation or ferry tickets through the so-called “Emergency-One-Off-Assistance Scheme”. However following the discontinuation of the framework agreement such services offered through the scheme are currently unavailable.

While there has been gradual progression in transfers from islands to mainland to alleviate overcrowding, there is still a need for authorities to expedite procedures affecting the transfer of persons from the islands. UNHCR continues to advocate for improved reception conditions and establishment of additional and suitable space on the islands, accelerated transfers, speedy registration and processing of asylum claims, along with regular information provision and sufficient presence of security.

During the reporting period from 1 June 2016 to 27 January 2017, 4,689 asylum-seekers were transferred by UNHCR. Of which 871 of them were supported in coordination with KEPOM and 1,984 of them were accommodated in Athens under the UNHCR relocation/accommodation scheme. In addition, UNHCR has provided 1,834 ferry tickets to those eligible for transfer.

In northern Greece on the mainland, plumbing and construction issues caused by inclement weather have mostly been addressed and repaired. However, WASH infrastructure complications at some sites still persist. In central Greece, UNHCR and child protection (CP) partners continued to conduct joint assessments at sites, in order to identify areas where Safe Zones for UASC can be established according to the Minimum Standards developed by the CP sub-working group. This initiative was initiated in December 2016 and up to now the regions of Attica, Central Macedonia and Central Greece have been assessed. In Attica, the safety and security of the asylum-seekers is highly compromised at Elliniko II. As a general observation, the security of people in Elliniko is not ensured by the authorities as security incidents continue and police intervention is minimal. UNHCR’s field office team in Elliniko received a significant number of individual cases for counselling and has arranged meetings with the community in order to address their concerns. Additionally, multiple sessions with the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) and UNHCR legal unit were organized in order to discuss procedures of legal proceedings with those affected.

An initiative launched on 10 May last year, spearheaded by the Swiss Embassy, and has developed a lexicon to facilitate communication between refugee communities and site management/NGOs/UNHCR in all open sites on the mainland. UNHCR distributed 7,000 copies to 4 sub offices in Attica, Thessaloniki, Larissa and Ioannina. The Swiss Embassy had already produced two previous lexicons with Greek NGO EADAP, on primary education and health issues.

Update on Returns from Greece to Turkey Two return operations were carried out from Greece to Turkey within the scope of the EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March 2016 during the reporting period. According to Greek authorities, 13 Syrians were returned from Lesvos to Adana on 25 January 2017. Of the group 11 withdrew their asylum applications while two withdrew their will to apply for asylum in Greece. On 26 January, 14 of different nationalities (three Algerians, seven Pakistani, two Iranians, one Iraqi and one Moroccan) were returned by boat from Lesvos to Dikili. Regarding the basis of return for individuals in this group: nine of them were rejected at second instance, one withdrew their asylum application, one withdrew their will to apply for asylum and three did not express the will to apply for asylum.

The total number of returns to Turkey from Greece under the EU-Turkey Statement is 865 as of 31 January.