Refugees put Greek isles under ‘severe strain’ –UN

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GENEVA: Close to 1,000 refugees are now arriving on the Greek islands every day, creating an unprecedented emergency for Greece and other countries, the UN refugee agency warned on Friday.

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“Greece’s volatile economic situation, combined with the increasing numbers of new arrivals, is putting severe strain on small island communities, which lack the basic infrastructure and services to adequately respond to the growing humanitarian needs,”

William Spindler, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said during a press briefing in Geneva.

Since the beginning of the year, a “staggering” 77,100 people had arrived in Greece by sea, many on flimsy and unsafe vessels. Almost 60 per cent of the new arrivals are from Syria while others come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and Somalia.

UNHCR said that the number of people arriving is now so high that, despite all efforts, the authorities and local communities can no longer cope.

“An urgent response from Europe is needed before the situation deteriorates further,” Mr. Spindler stressed. “Tightening borders is not the solution, including the plans of the Hungarian government to build a fence along the Serbian border.”

Expressing concerns for the well-being of refugees, including pregnant women and children, the spokesperson stressed that, despite the precarious situation facing the livelihoods of many Greek people, their response towards refugees has for the most part been “welcoming and generous.”

UN News Center

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