Aid Group Offers Refugee Help

Refugees on Lesbos wait for registration papers. (AP Photo/Santi Palacios)

While European leaders squabble, an international aid organization said it would increase aid for refugees in Greece.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said allowing legal passage would also save lives as at least 435 have drowned trying to reach the European Union through Greece, many from nearby Turkey.

More than 580,000 have fled war, strife and poverty in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and northern Africa this year but the bloc’s authorities still haven’t implemented a plan to deal with them.

On the Greek island of Lesbos, which receives the largest number of arrivals, the cemeteries and mortuary are now full and a local Bishop said authorities were now using a special freezer car to store the dead bodies, Reuters reported.

The IFRC promised to increase its aid to 12.7 million Swiss francs ($12.81 million) over the next seven months from 3 million offered in September.

That comes as the Greek government for months has failed to open an office that would bring in 460 million euros ($504.48 million) in EU aid.

In Athens, the IFRC Secretary General, Elhadj As Sy, called for a loosening of travel restrictions to allow the refugees to move legally, echoing a position long held by Greece.

“Because if you do it legally, you take away the illegal business from the traffickers and then the smugglers. And then people would feel safer and it would be better organized,” he said.

Rescue organizations report that smugglers take up to 1,400 euros per passenger for a short boat trip, often on rickety overcrowded craft or shaky rubber dinghies. If they were tourists the cost for a round trip from Turkey to Lesbos would be 25 euros.

Bishop Iakovos of Mytilene (Lesbos) said about 20 people were still unburied on the island due to a lack of space to accommodate them.

“A special freezer car has been brought and people are placed in there until they can be buried. Most of them are unidentified, and that includes children,” he told Mega TV.