A refugee holds his baby inside a bus as he waits to be transferred to a hospitality center at the port of Piraeus in Athens, Greece. He arrived with the passenger ship “Blue Star 2” from the island of Samos. | Photo: EPA/Yannis Kolesidis
A refugee holds his baby inside a bus as he waits to be transferred to a hospitality center at the port of Piraeus in Athens, Greece. He arrived with the passenger ship “Blue Star 2” from the island of Samos. | Photo: EPA/Yannis Kolesidis

Twelve humanitarian organizations have urged Europe and Greece to “break the vicious circle” which is blocking thousands of migrants on the Greek islands. The appeal was launched on September 18.

"For the third year in a row, vulnerable asylum seekers - including thousands of children - have found themselves trapped on the Greek islands of the eastern Aegean, enduring inhumane conditions in overcrowded hotspots," wrote 12 humanitarian organizations in a recent appeal. The organizations include ActionAid Hellas, ASB, the Danish Refugee Council (Greece), Solidarity Now, and Terre des hommes.

"The organizations urge the Greek and EU authorities to move towards sustainable solutions for the reception, protection and integration of refugees," they continued.

Difficult living conditions on Greek islands

"Once again, the overcrowding on the Aegean islands comes as no surprize," the NGOs wrote. "Nearly 22,000 people, 35 percent of whom are children, are housed in Reception and Identification Centers (RICs) across Greek islands. These centers' capacity has been exceeded by 500 percent, forcing vulnerable people to live in degrading and dangerous conditions." Their letter continued: "The authorities have not been mobilized quickly enough to deal with this year's increase in arrivals, and it is no wonder the public - which has witnessed the same story before - remains unmoved,"

"Although around 7,000 people are entitled to be moved from the islands, as their restrictions have been lifted, the process constantly breaks down due to a lack of available hosting places on the mainland. This is further impeded by the absence of an effective relocation program for asylum seekers in Europe and long delays in processing family reunification requests." The NGOs stressed that "moving 1,500 people from Lesvos to mainland Greece is a step forward but it is not a solution for the people who are housed in tents that do not meet basic living standards."

'Greece and Europe need to do more'

"Greece can meet the needs of asylum seekers with a long-term strategy that acknowledges the benefits of refugee integration as well as the needs of host communities," the organizations noted.

"What is needed is a coherent plan that makes the most of the resources made available by the EU. This plan must also deliver adequate infrastructure and human resources and should work effectively with civil society. European leaders must share the responsibility for the reception and support of asylum seekers by creating a permanent relocation mechanism and backing family reunification. We need a better system that safeguards human dignity and provides people with a future without further delay. We must break this vicious circle," concluded the appeal.

 

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