UNHCR: Greek Refugee Camps Overcrowded, Unfit for Winter Weather

The government must speed up winter preparations at refugee camps on islands in the Aegean Sea where there has been a sharp rise in arrivals, the United Nations refugee agency said on Friday.

Nearly 5,000 refugees; mostly Syrian or Iraqi families, crossed from Turkey in September – a quarter of all arrivals this year, UNHCR data shows.

“UNHCR urges action on the islands to ease overcrowding, improve shelter, and stock and distribute appropriate and sufficient aid items,” said Philippe Leclerc, UNHCR representative in Greece.

In the Moria camp on the island of Lesvos, one of the main entry points, more than 1,500 people are in makeshift shelters or tents without insulation, flooring or heating, UNHCR said. They include pregnant women, people with disabilities, and very young children.

Read also: Migrant Camp in Lesvos ‘a Concentration Camp’ says Human Rights Watch

On nearby Samos, about 400 people are living in “very difficult” conditions and another 300; including families and lone children, are sleeping in tents in the woods due to a lack of space in the camp, UNHCR said. More than 3,000 people on Samos are crammed into facilities designed to hold 700.

UNHCR has been gradually reducing its involvement on the islands, since national institutions took over most services in August.