Migrant arrivals to Greece continue unabated: Nearly 800 migrants crossed from Turkey to Greece in just 48 hours this week, marking the highest pace of arrivals in 40 months. The Council of Europe during a visit to migrant camps on the Greek islands warned of an explosive situation and described living conditions there as 'horrible.'
On Wednesday, the Greek coastguard
registered the arrival of 790 migrants in just 48 hours. As state media
reported, the migrants arrived by land and by sea on boats at Alexandropouli on
the mainland and the islands of Samos and Farmakonisi.
The country has not seen this many arrivals of migrants via sea since the EU-Turkey deal came into effect in March 2016. The number of migrants arriving in Greece in the first ten months of this year has already overshot last year’s figure of around 50,500.
According to the latest UNHCR figures, 55,348 migrants have arrived, 43,683 of them by sea, between the start of 2019 and Sunday.
The surge has led to dramatic overcrowding in camps on the Greek Aegean islands, where the migrant population has more than doubled over the past six months, according to the German press agency dpa. Even before, the camps were packed at more than twice their capacity. Outbreaks of violence and fires at the EU-funded island camps have further escalated the situation.
During a visit to Greek island camps on Wednesday, Dunja Mijatovic, the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, said she had witnessed people queuing for food or to use a bathroom for more than three hours at refugee camps for asylum seekers on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Samos and Corinth.
"The people I have met are living in horrible conditions and in an unbearable limbo," she said at a news briefing on Thursday; adding the migrants were struggling to cope with overcrowding, lack of shelter, poor hygiene conditions and substandard access to medical care.
"I saw children with skin diseases not treated. I heard about no medications or drugs at all available to these people. No access to health, no proper access to health and many other things that are really quite shocking for Europe in the 21st century," Mijatovic continued.
To ease the overcrowding, the Greek government has already started relocating people to the mainland. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced that 20,000 migrants would be moved by the end of the year. With the current resurgence of arrivals, however, decongestion is not in sight. Mijatovic urged the authorities to transfer asylum seekers from islands to the mainland as soon as possible. "It is an explosive situation", she said. "This no longer has anything to do with the reception of asylum-seekers," she said. "This has become a struggle for survival," she concluded at the end of her visit.
With material from dpa, Reuters