Over half a million migrants have arrived in Greece over the past 10 months according to the figures released this week by the United Nations, and with tens of thousands more on their way, Greek authorities are facing a near impossible task in coping with the influx,
“It is of utmost importance here that reception conditions be established and be adequate to this enormous task.” UNHCR
The crisis, which has seen the rate of people arriving rise to 8000 a day, is worsening dramatically, with asylum-seekers from the war-torn Middle East desperately trying to beat the onset of winter.
The latest figures from data collected by the International Office of Migration (IOM) shows that 507,825 arrivals were recorded by the Greek authorities between January 1 and October 19.
With a total of 650,000 people recorded to have entered Europe in 2015 so far (compared to 280,000 in 2014) Greece continues to face the brunt of the humanitarian crisis which has seen over 3000 of the refugees die as they attempt to make a new life in the European Union.
One of the centres of the storm has been the island of Lesvos, and this week its capacity for processing refugees and migrants were stretched to breaking point with numbers of new arrivals spiraling.
Over 27,000 migrants entered Greece last weekend, 16,448 of who arrived on Lesvos, with Chios, witnessing the arrival of over 4,300.
Deteriorating weather resulted in at least 25 deaths in the Aegean last week, many of them children. Two incidents off the coast of Lesvos cost the lives of 10 migrants, including four children and two infants. More migrant deaths occurred near Kalymnos, Farmakonisi and Megisti.
Australian nurse Helen Zahos, who is in Lesvos as a volunteer to assist the migrants, told Neos Kosmos she was seeing “a nightmare situation”.
Ms Zahos says the reception centre at Moria where she’s based is desperately overcrowded with a shortage of beds, clothing and food.
“The majority of local people assist the migrants as best as they can,” said Ms Zahos, adding that their response had been “overwhelming”.
With the weather on the island getting worse refugees are waiting days to be registered before they are able take a ferry to the mainland.
Meanwhile UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said EU countries – who last month agreed to relocate 66,000 migrants from Italy and Greece – urgently needed to establish welcome centres as part of the deal.
“Obviously Greece is doing what it can, it’s pulling in additional police,” she said.
“But we need to repeat over and over again that it is of utmost importance here that reception conditions be established and be adequate to this enormous task.”