Greece: UNHCR concerned at conditions in new refugee sites and urges that alternatives be found
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR is seriously concerned about sub-standard conditions at several sites in northern Greece where refugees and migrants were evacuated this week from the makeshift site at Idomeni, and urges the Greek authorities, with the financial support provided by the European Union, to find better alternatives quickly.
UNHCR agrees that the makeshift site at Idomeni on the Greek border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, where refugees had been staying in abysmal conditions, needed to be evacuated, and notes that this has been completed without the use of force. However, the conditions of the some of these sites to which the refugees and migrants are transferred fall well below minimum standards.
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. Refugees transferred by bus from Idomeni received little information about conditions at the new sites and the duration of their stay there. UNHCR remains concerned about families being separated during their transfer. Spontaneous arrivals of refugee families, some of whom left Idomeni on foot, have been reported at a number of the sites, which are already overcrowded. Poor conditions at these sites are compounding the already high level of distress of refugee families, fueling tensions within refugee populations and complicating efforts to provide required assistance and protection.
UNHCR is in close contact with the Alternate Minister of Interior in charge of Migration Policy and proposes that the improvements it had suggested for some of the sites envisaged could be made as a matter of priority. UNHCR will continue to assist the Greek authorities to provide emergency assistance and urgently improve conditions at these sites where possible. Where it is not possible to bring conditions up to minimal humanitarian standards, alternatives need to be found and made ready to accommodate refugees. UNHCR renews its call for the immediate identification and establishment of new sites commensurate with the needs, and in full compliance with basic humanitarian requirements. While such emergency temporary sites are necessary at present, UNHCR at the same time continues to increase the number of accommodation places through apartments and other reception facilities.
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