UN: European countries should support Greece on efforts amid migrant crisis

Io Chokona / Athens, Aug 18 () – The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) released a press statement urging the Europen countries to support Greece’s efforts to handle the migrant crisis, as in a period of one week between August 8-14, number of illegal migrants having crossed into Greece through coastal borders exceeded 21,000 people.

This number reflects the half of the illegal migrant number having crossed into the country in 2014. The rated of only July exceeds the number of entries of migrants to Greece in 2014, 50,242 people. The migrants influxed into Greece in recent weeks were from Syria at 83 percent, Afghanistan at 14 percent and from Iraq at 3 percent.

"The pace of arrivals has been steadily increasing in recent weeks," UNHCR spokesman William Spindler told reporters in Geneva, bringing the number to over 160,000 since the beginning of the year.

Until recently, most migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean to Europe travelled to Italy, but dangers and logistical difficulties have in recent months shifted the flood increasingly towards Greece.

"For months, UNHCR has been warning of a mounting refugee crisis on the Greek islands," Spindler said, insisting the "reception infrastructure, services and registration procedures both on the islands and on the mainland need to be strengthened urgently."

The debt-ravaged country is taking steps to address the problem, but has said the huge influx is too much for it to handle alone and has pleaded for more EU help. Spindler agreed that Europe needed to do more.

"Rather than dealing with the situation on one island, we need to deal with the situation in the whole region, not just Greece" he said, claiming that "the vast majority" of the migrants aimed to travel on to northern Europe.

Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras urged on August 10, “We will see if the European solidarity on the rising migrant crisis is real or not” amid talks with creditors and added “We will see if Europe will help the crisis or seek to protect its borders.”

Having added that Greece has been exposing an intense migration flow, Tsipras stressed the country has been facing a crisis in crisis. “The number of migrants entering Greece exceeds the country’s capacity. Greece is border to Europe. Without the help of Europe, it is difficult to cope with this issue. We want to accompany these people in humanitarian conditions. However, Europe will have to help us urgently for this purpose” said Greek PM.

Tsipras reminded that a large part of the migrant flow comes from Turkey and said, “An agreement should be settled with Turkey, where around 2 million migrants cross into Greece. Also, the same issue should be debated with countries such as Syria and Libya.

The accelerating migrant crisis is also expected to affect the tourism, since gates have to deal with large numbers of migrants attempting to enter the islands. According to data released by migration office, number of migrants attempting to enter Greece illegally has tripled against last year. In the last three days, this number reached 1,417 migrants.

One of the key concerns involve the incapacity of municipatlities to supply necessary food and clothes to this human flow. The migrants try to survive with support of locals and volunteers who offer them food, water and clothes.

Some of the migrants, who had been directed to Athens, have been residing or camping in large parks, under inhuman conditions. Upon the negative reaction of locals, a camp consisting of containers is planned to be installed in Eleona, offering migrants better conditions.

After the 1999 earthquake, the same containers had been used in the Eleona area of 40 decares. Officials reported that around 60 containers of 33 m2 size were already launched, along with water and electricity systems, and the camp in Eleona is ready to open doors to the first 400 migrants. By this weekend, the migrants are expected to be placed in this camp.

For months, UNHCR has been warning of a mounting refugee crisis on the Greek islands, UNHCR said in a statement, adding that, the reception infrastructure, services and registration procedures both on the islands and on the mainland need to be strengthened urgently. "We are recommending Greek authorities to designate a single body to coordinate an emergency response and set up an adequate humanitarian assistance mechanism. European countries should support Greece on these efforts. UNHCR is working to support the Greek authorities."



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