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23/01/2017

Commission calls the plight of refugees on Greek islands ‘untenable’

Justice & Home Affairs

Commission calls the plight of refugees on Greek islands ‘untenable’

A snow-covered tent in the Moira camp, on Lesbos.

[Eric Kempson/YouTube]

Shocking footage has emerged showing how migrants are living in snow-covered tents with no heating on the Greek island of Lesbos. The Commission called their situation “untenable”.

A video on YouTube, reported to have been filmed by an asylum seeker living in UN camp Moira, on Lesbos, shows tents collapsing under the weight of heavy snow, which has also crept inside their freezing temporary homes.

Greece, as well as the entirety of South-Eastern Europe, including Turkey, is suffering a wave of cold, with heavy snow and temperatures well below zero degrees centigrade.

The footage is likely to embarrass the Greek government. Greek Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas was quoted as saying two days before that there were no refugees or migrants living in the cold.

The last time the reception centres at the Greek islands made the news was on the occasion of violent clashes and fires that occurred there.

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The number of asylum seekers on Greek islands is growing, as this is where they expect their asylum claim to be processed before those who qualify are transferred to the mainland, and those rejected are sent to Turkey. 5,800 migrants are reported to live in Moira.

Asked to comment on the situation on Lesbos, Commission Spokesperson Natasha Bertaud called their living conditions “untenable”.

Bertaud said that the responsibility for ensuring adequate reception conditions was with the Greek authorities, and the EU was doing everything they could to improve the situation.

“When it comes particularly to Moira, in its contacts with the Greek authorities the Commission has already stressed that there is a need for additional reception capacity in the island,” she said, adding that the EU executive stands ready to provide funding for such additional accommodation centres.

“The Commission is aware that currently the situation is untenable”, Bertaud said, but added that the Commission could not dictate to the Greek authorities, or to any member state, what to do.

“We are pursuing a dual strategy of political pressure and financial and technical support to the Greek authorities to improve the situation,” she explained.

Asked what was the “political pressure”, Bertaud stated this was the continued series of recommendations the Commission was making to Greece in its reports, including in its Back to Dublin report, where actions which Greece needed to take to improve the situation were specified.

Greece is currently expected to take back immigrants from the rest of the block, to implement of the Dublin regulation, which determines which EU country is responsible for examining the application of asylum-seekers.

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