UNHCR concerned over refugee conditions on Greek islands

7 January 2017
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The United Nations refugee agency is urging Greek authorities to quickly move asylum-seekers to the mainland from overcrowded facilities on Greek islands, saying conditions remain bad and expressing concern over a predicted cold weather snap.

UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said in Geneva Friday that conditions at many sites “remain very poor” despite improvement efforts.

More than 15,500 migrants or refugees are stuck on Greek islands. Under a European Union-Turkey deal to reduce migration into Europe, those arriving on islands after March are held and face being returned to Turkey unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece.

Edwards noted that only vulnerable asylum-seekers or those who have completed the registration process could be transferred to the mainland, and delays in registration or identifying vulnerable cases “contributed to serious overcrowding.”

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