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Heavy snow and icy weather in Greece calls for moving refugees to the mainland

UN refugee agency reminds EU of the continued need to help resolve the situation in Greece through relocating asylum-seekers to other countries

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Syrian refugee boys play with stray puppies during snowfall at the refugee camp of Ritsona about 86 kilometers (53 miles) north of Athens, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017. Over 62,000 refugees and migrants are stranded in Greece after a series of Balkan border closures and an European Union deal with Turkey to stop migrant flows. Photo AP/Muhammed Muheisen

09 January 2017

The many asylum-seekers on the Greek Aegean islands of Samos, Chios and Lesvos are currently faced with extremely low temperatures and life-threatening weather conditions.
The United Nations refugee agency has underlined the urgent need to accelerate their transfer to the mainland.

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), transfers of asylum-seekers from the islands to the mainland are allowed only after people have completed a registration process or in cases of particular vulnerability.

“Slowness in registration or identifying vulnerable individuals and, previously, a shortage of suitable spaces on the mainland have been factors delaying moves,” Adrian Edwards, a spokesperson for UNHCR said.

“Among other things this has contributed to serious overcrowding of facilities built for far fewer people, and increased protection risks,” he added.

The UN agency and its partners have distributed thermal blankets, sleeping bags, winter protection kits and heating fuel, installed electric heaters and insulation, and set up heated emergency tents, the AP reports.

It is clear that people would be better off on the mainland and should be moved there more quickly and in larger numbers (...) it's clear that people would be better off on the mainland and should be moved there more quickly and in larger numbers,” added Edwards explaining that additionall infrastructure upgrades will soon be completed.

In total it has created some 21,000 accommodation places in apartments, with host families, or in other buildings while 700 places have been also found for unaccompanied children in dedicated structures.

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency reminded European Union (EU) countries of the continued need to help resolve the situation in Greece through relocating asylum-seekers to other countries.

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