Urgent action needed in Greece to save lives before winter sets in
"Ten thousand asylum seekers are now living in cramped conditions in a camp that was designed for 3,500 people. With no proper accommodation or even sleeping bags to face the fast approaching winter, the safety of these desperate people is now at risk", says Benedicte Giæver, Executive Director of NORCAP.
NORCAP experts are working on the response and report that daily arrivals have reached record heights of 8 boats per day on Lesvos alone. Very few are being transferred to the mainland because of the lack of available space and conditions are deteriorating rapidly. Last weekend, a teenage boy died after having been stabbed by another boy inside what is supposed to be a safe zone for children.
"Our experts are comparing the current camp conditions to the one at the beginning of the crisis in 2015. There is a huge lack of accommodation, health facilities, even proper food. The frustration among the asylum seekers is at the tipping point. People are crammed into huge tents, afraid for their safety, not knowing the person sleeping next to them at night. Despite the EU having provided funding to the Greek government to support in this crisis, it is not enough with the huge number of arrivals we have now," Giæver says.
Among the asylum seekers, there are more than 600 unaccompanied minors. Some of them are just 10 or 11 years old. They are forced to stay with strangers, adult men and women, increasing their vulnerability to trafficking, harassment and abuse.
"We need urgent solutions to end the inhumane conditions at the Greek islands.
Not only does the Greek government need more support to respond adequately to the scale of this crisis, European countries must take their share of the responsibility. That means relocating and providing safety for people who have fled from conflict and persecution," Giæver says.
In Europe, a relocation scheme that allowed asylum seekers to be relocated from Greece and Italy to other European countries formally ended in 2017. The countries have not been able to reach a new agreement for handling the crisis.
NOTE TO EDITORS:
NORCAP is a global provider of expertise to the humanitarian, development and peacebuilding sectors and is a part of the Norwegian Refugee Council.
NORCAP experts have been involved in the response on the Greek islands since the first boats started arriving in August 2015, and currently 15 experts are working with the Greek Reception and Identification Service, supporting the Greek authorities to develop their site management, site planning and protection capacities.
Nearly 1,800 refugees and migrants arrived by sea to Greece between the 19[th] and 25[th] of August, bringing the total number of arrivals only this year to 31,265. Some 24,000 people are now staying on the Greek Aegean islands, the highest number in 3 years.
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