Greece: thousands of refugees confined to islands

Of the more than 14,000 asylum seekers currently confined to five Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, many are facing dire circumstances due to unusually harsh winter conditions, according to a statement released today by Human Rights Watch (HRW). The migrants are fleeing conflict zones in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and many have been confined for more than ten months, according to the report. A “hotspot” was created in Moria on the island of Lesbos at the recommendation (PDF) of the European Commission to serve as a reception and registration area for refugees, as required by a deal the EU signed with Turkey last March. The report from HRW finds more needs to be done, saying the Greek government should immediately transfer vulnerable refugees to “appropriate mainland accomodations.” During a recent visit to the Moria camp, HRW staff reported seeing flimsy, snow-covered tents, and vulnerable refugees in life-threatening living conditions.

The Greek government and the UN Refugee Agency have been accused of failing to use nearly $100 million in EU funding to “winterize” the camps, leaving thousands to sleep in freezing conditions. The Greek government has responded to the public outcry regarding the conditions at the camps by sending ships to temporarily house refugees, including a ship that was sent after a fire broke out in one of the camps in September.

From Jurist, Jan. 23. Used with permission.