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UN Refugee Chief on Refugee Rips Greece Over Detention, Asylum

November 29, 2019

ATHENS – UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, before meeting Prime Minister Kyriakois Mitsotakis, aid the New Democracy must do more to deal with more than 96,000 refugees and migrants, especially unaccompanied children and blasted conditions in camps.

“We cannot accept that they (refugees) live in such miserable living conditions. The conditions are very challenging and need urgent improvement,” he told reporters after visiting camps on the island of Lesbos where the Moria center was called “the worst in the world” by the BBC.

That came after the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) raised concerns over plans to replace camps with detention centers that the government said is needed to weed out those ineligble for sanctuary, the group saying they would turn into prisons t for people who seek safety and are trapped “in an endless drama”.

Mitsotakis’s government is responding to a spike in refugees and migrants landing on Greek islands by planning to speed asylum applications and deportations,  and met Grandi  to talk about how to deal with the problem.

They discussed the support of the UNHCR office in Athens and the Asylum Service, including the work carried out to process thousands of asylum applications, said Kathimerini, with virtually all of the refugees and migrants – including some 34,700 on islands – seeking sanctuary.

They had come to Greece, mostly on the perilous journey across the Aegean Sea from Turkey, where they had first gone fleeing war and strife in their homelands, especially Afghanistan and Syria’s civil war.

With the European Union closing its borders to them they are left only to seek asylum in Greece or be sent back to Turkey and an unknown fate. An essentially-suspended 2016 deal with the EU has seen only about 2,000 sent back.

Mitsotakis briefed Grandi on the initiative for unaccompanied children “No child alone”, which will provide housing with the help of the EU, UNHCR and Citizens Society after some two dozen human rights groups and activists – including the UNHCR’s office in Athens – said that the minors were being held in poor conditions and as they blasted a plan to replace island camps with detention centers to weed out those ineligible for asylum.

Mitsotakis, who had ripped the EU for not doing enough to help as other countries had reneged on promises to help take an overload, told Grandi that Turkey has to abide by the deal although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to send millions more.

Also attending were UNHCR representative in Greece Philippe Leclerc, UNHCR’s Director of the Regional Bureau for Europe Pascale Moreau and Greek minister, the paper said.

In October, UNHCR said that through September 30, as a surge was building, the largest number of refugees and migrants reaching Europe came from Turkey to Greece, including the land border at the treacherous Evros River where a number have died trying to cross.

Since New  Democracy took office in July, ousting the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA in snap elections, more than 44,000 more refugees and migrants have arrived with scores, sometimes hundreds, arriving weekly or daily on the islands.

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