For the umpteenth time, UNHCR has raised the alarm about the conditions of migrants confined to the Aegean Islands, where the situation has become deadly after a cold snap struck Greece and the Balkans. “It’s clear that people would be better off on the mainland and should be moved there more quickly and in larger numbers,” a UNHCR spokesperson said, though there’s been no response so far.
Refugees are coping with the drop in temperatures living in tent cities or in bungalows for summer tourists, or they’re crammed into reception centers overcrowded with thousands of men, women and children. They’re forced to stay put because the roads are icy and surrounded by mud and snow, and they rely on the help of the many NGOs that have been distributing blankets and clothes.
A European Commission spokesman called the situation “untenable,” careful, however, to make clear that it would not interfere with Greek affairs. “It is up to Athens to ensure the proper welcome,” he said.
There are about 62,000 refugees in Greece, almost all of them Syrians, according to official estimates. Fifteen thousand of those are in the Aegean Islands. The harshest living conditions have been recorded in Lesvos, where in recent days some migrants housed in a camp were transferred to hotels in the area.