The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR continues to express concern for the living conditions of migrants and refugees on the Greek Islands. Despite efforts that have already been made, it is calling for an additional speeding up of transfers of the most vulnerable people to the mainland.
"Since mid-October, some 6,000 asylum seekers have been moved by the Greek government out of the islands with UNHCR's support.This is among efforts being taken to ease conditions in overcrowded reception centres, and transfer the more vulnerable to safety as winter sets in," UNHCR said in a statement. On December 21, 59 people were transferred from Lesbos. Among these were Sibel (not her real name), a Syrian refugee who lived for three months in a tent on the island with her three children and teenage nephew in difficult conditions. "Now I will be able to bathe them with hot water," Sibel told UNHCR just prior to the transfer.The UNHCR said that "10,000 asylum seekers are still crammed into government-run facilities on the islands, double the design capacity. The situation continues to be critical in the reception centres of Moria on Lesvos and Vathy on Samos".
"Government must ease pressure on islands"
"Time is of the essence and the accelerated pace of departures for asylum seekers authorized to move should be maintained," UNHCR said. The organisation is appealing to the Greek government to "continue easing pressure on Lesbos, Chios and Samos, by further shortening procedures" by reconsidering the "current restrictions which keep people on the islands" with the goal of allowing for "the quick transfer from Reception and Identification Centres (RIC)" to the mainland.
It said tension in the centres on the islands "has been mounting since the summer". The hope is that "these problems can be quickly solved and that people staying in the RICs can access warmer and safer conditions with adequate shelter, electricity and functioning water and sanitation facilities," UNHCR said. To aid this process, some mayors of Greek cities "taking part in the UNHCR accommodation programme on the mainland gave their firm support for the continuation of the scheme beyond 2018." UNHCR said it will reach "the goal of 22,000 places in the urban accommodation program by the end of the year".