While the EU Commission signals awareness of the increase in arrivals to Greece and principle willingness to assist, it also underlines that the current number of arrivals remains 91 per cent lower than during the period prior to the EU Turkey agreement in 2016. Despite weekly transfers to the mainland the hotspots and migrant centres in the Greek islands hosting 29,000 people are severely overcrowded with Moria on Lesvos hosting 12.000 people or four times its capacity.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) arrivals in Greece have reached 41,940 in 2019, as of September 22. Spokesperson Natasha Bertaud confirmed that the Commission has: ”noted with concern the large number of arrivals reported in Lesvos over the past weeks, which is undoubtedly putting additional pressure on a system that is already under great strain, but we did underline that the arrivals over the summer remain just a fraction of what they were in the months preceding the EU-Turkey Statement”. The Commission also confirmed that it was still committed to the EU Turkey agreement and is currently negotiating to resolve recent tensions with Ankara over the funding of assistance to and hosting of refugees under the deal.
The Greek government have announced a draft law that reportedly will be ready by October introducing changes to the Greek asylum procedure to speed up decisions and returns to Turkey. However, allegedly ideas of abolishing the right to appeal negative asylum decisions has been dropped.
The Greek government already begun emergency transfers of people from the islands to the mainland. However, the situation in the hotspots and centres not least in Moria on Lesvos is increasingly critical. The severe overcrowding has resulted in increased mental health challenges further worsened by lack of medical resources: “We see more severe cases recently and this affects our team as well because we only see severe cases we cannot help everyone. The more people [in the camp], the more stress, and the more stress the more mental health issues,” stated Katrin Brubakk, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) mental health activity manager. MSF further expressed concern over an increase in suicide attempts including by children. The death of a five year old child near Moria camp was reported this week the circumstances are not yet clear.
On 19 September 2019 the Greek National Commission on Human Rights released a statement calling on the Greek state to comply with the immediate measures indicated by the European Committee of Social Rights regarding the situation of migrant children in Greece.
For further information:
- ECRE, Slight Increase of Arrivals to Greece Adds to Humanitarian Crisis, September 2019
- ECRE, Greece: Death of 15-year-old Following Failure to Implement Safeguards for Children, August 2019
Photo: Giorgos Moutafis