Greece must step up efforts to protect thousands of refugees and migrants from the coming winter and boost security in its camps, the UN’s top refugee official said Thursday.
“With the arrival of winter, there are still many thousands of people living in sites that are not yet at standard conditions,” UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi told a news conference in Athens.
“It is important to upgrade conditions to minimize the risk factors to which these people are exposed. And they will be increasingly exposed when winter comes.”
According to Greek state data, there are over 50,000 refugees and migrants in dozens of camps around the country, many of them former warehouses and army camps of questionable quality.
Another 7,000 are estimated to be staying outside the state camp system altogether, including squats run by volunteer groups.
Grandi, who visited two camps near Thessaloniki, northern Greece and a center for unaccompanied minors, called for additional police to guard the facilities.
“There are very serious security problems in some of the sites… my concern is about the daily security of the people,” the Italian diplomat said.
“There are women with children without their husbands… many unaccompanied minors, elderly people, these people are at risk.”
“There are criminal elements… infiltrating and exploiting people… the main response to that is to have more police capacity,” he said.
Brawls have regularly broken out in the camps, mainly on the islands where many migrants are fed up waiting for months for their asylum applications to be processed.
Over 160,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Greece since January, including 2,300 in August, the UN said on Thursday.