UN Urges Greece to Improve Living Conditions for Refugees

The United Nations has expressed its concern over several refugee sites in northern Greece as having “sub-standard conditions”, and has called on Greece to increase the standard of living for refugees at these sites.

The UN voiced its concern on the 27th May after police began to move approximately 8000 refugees from the temporary camp at Idomeni, located on the closed border between Greece and Macedonia to the 35 already overcrowded accommodation sites throughout Greece. Although the UN has acknowledged the relocation as a necessary step, it is concerned about the living conditions of the sites.

UNHCR spokesperson, Melissa Fleming stated,

“Some of the refugees and migrants who had been living in Idomeni have been moved into derelict warehouses and factories, inside of which tents have been placed too tightly together. The air circulation is poor, and supplies of food, water, toilets, showers, and electricity are insufficient.”

The UN has reported that refugees have been shocked at the horrendous living conditions, which has included an abandoned warehouse where over 1, 400 people are sleeping in rows of cramped tents.

In April this year, the European Commission released a report stating that only 615 out of the 66, 400 asylum-seekers promised to be relocated from Greece to other EU states in September 2015 had actually been transferred. Concerns have been expressed by both UNHCR and Amnesty International at the lack of information provided to the refugees not only about where they are going and the processes of relocation, but also about their rights. Amnesty International has asked Greece that as a priority it has to set up a process for the systematic provision for information and the recognition of refugees with special needs.

Managing Director of SolidarityNow, Epaminondas Farmakis, has called for European governments to take action and help improve the humanitarian crisis faced by refugees in their journey to seek safety, and a reunion with their family.

While the European Commission has committed 25 million euros of emergency funding to the European Asylum Support Office, Commissioner Avramopoulos said additional support is needed.

“EU Agencies are playing a crucial role in supporting the Greek authorities on the ground, providing practical expertise and operational support. The Commission is supporting these deployments through emergency EU funding. I call on Member States to quickly make available the necessary staff to help EASO deliver the planned support and give a boost to the EU relocation scheme. This is key to addressing the humanitarian situation on the ground.”

Annemarie Lewis