UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, remains very concerned with the situation of refugees and migrants on the Aegean islands, in particular Lesvos, Chios and Samos, but welcomes important efforts to speed up transfers to the mainland over the past weeks.
Since mid-October, some 6,000 asylum seekers have been moved by the Greek government out of the islands with UNHCR’s support. However, some 10,000 asylum seekers are still crammed into government-run facilities on the islands; double the design capacity.
The situation continues to be critical in the reception centres of Moria on Lesvos and Vathy on Samos, noted UNHCR spokesperson Cécile Pouilly, at a press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
Time is of the essence, and the accelerated pace of departures for asylum seekers authorized to move should be maintained. UNHCR is calling on the Greek government to continue easing pressure on Lesvos, Chios and Samos, by further shortening procedures for people eligible to move, and urgently improving conditions for those who continue to stay.
Conditions on Reception and Identification Centres (RICs) on the Greek islands is volatile, with local authorities opposing efforts to introduce improvements inside of the RICs in certain cases.
On some islands, local reluctance has also hampered efforts to secure small numbers of temporary and exceptional accommodation in apartments and hotels, for the most vulnerable.
Greek mayors of towns and cities taking part in the UNHCR accommodation programme on the mainland, gave their firm support at a landmark conference in Athens last week, for the continuation of the scheme beyond 2018.
UNHCR is meeting the goal of 22,000 places in the urban accommodation programme by the end of the year.