People rest outside their containers in the identification center on the island of Lesbos in Greece | Photo:  EPA/PANAGIOTIS BALASKAS
People rest outside their containers in the identification center on the island of Lesbos in Greece | Photo: EPA/PANAGIOTIS BALASKAS

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) says migrants in Greece are in urgent need of support. The organization says with the arrival of winter, the conditions in the camps will deteriorate and migrants' lives will be at risk.

Benedicte Giaever, the executive director of NORCAP, a humanitarian aid organization operated by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), warned that winter will bring many risks for migrants in camps in Greece. "Ten thousand asylum seekers are now living in cramped conditions in a camp that was designed for 3,500 people," Giaever said of the situation in the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos. "With no proper accommodation or even sleeping bags to face the fast approaching winter, the safety of these desperate people is now at risk."  

Record number of arrivals in Greece

NRC said in a statement that NORCAP experts are working on the response to the situation in Moria. Daily arrivals have reached record heights of eight boats per day on Lesbos. Few migrants are being transferred to the mainland because of the lack of available space. Conditions in migrant camps on the Aegean islands, especially Lesbis, are reportedly deteriorating rapidly. 

"Our experts are comparing the current camp conditions [in Moria] to those at the beginning of the crisis in 2015," Giaever said. "There is a huge lack of accommodation, health facilities, even proper food.The frustration among the asylum seekers is at the tipping point. People are crammed into huge tents, afraid for their safety, not knowing the person sleeping next to them at night. Despite the EU having provided funding to the Greek government to support in this crisis, it is not enough with the huge number of arrivals we have now." 

Risk of abuse for hundreds of minors 

NRC said there are more than 600 unaccompanied minors among the asylum seekers, some just 10 or 11 years old. They have been forced to stay with strangers, adult men and women, increasing their vulnerability to trafficking, harassment and abuse, the organization said. 

"We need urgent solutions to end the inhumane conditions on the Greek islands," Giaever said. "Not only does the Greek government need more support to respond adequately to the scale of this crisis, European countries must take their share of the responsibility."

NRC said nearly 1,800 refugees and migrants arrived by sea to Greece from August 19 to 25, bringing the total number of arrivals this year to 31,265. About 24,000 people are now staying on the Greek Aegean islands, the highest number in three years, according to the UN Refugee Agency. 

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