ATHENS – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, joined a chorus of critics who said Greece’s New Democracy government has to make life better for some 42,000 refugees and migrants housed in camps and detention centers on islands.
Some have been waiting two years or more for asylum applications to be reviewed, which the government said would be accelerated, along with returning those ineligible to Turkey under an essentially-suspended swap deal with the European Union.
They had gone to Turkey fleeing war and strife in their homelands, especially Afghanistan and the Syrian civil war, fearing for their lives, as well as economic migrants from areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, looking for work, not criterion for sanctuary.
Grandi said Greece would have “support from Europe,” although it doesn’t, even though the current and former EU chief for migration are from New Democracy and have done little to help the problem or aid their country.
“The living conditions on the islands are shocking and shameful,” Grandi said, adding they had gotten worse since his last visit in November, a clarion call repeated by some two dozen human rights and activist groups that has also been mostly, gnored.
He asked for EU solidarity, reported The Brussels Times, and requested that “the responsibilities be shared,” including relocated unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable groups to other countries and speeding family reunions.
The problem, however, is that the EU has closed its borders to refugees and migrants and other countries have reneged on promises to help take some of the overload, dumping the problem largely on Greece, as well as Italy, Malta and Spain.
The island camps, on Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos are not fit for humans in many cases, with miserable conditions, the rights groups have complained, with the Moria camp on Lesbos called the BBC “the worst in the world.”
Despite several years of calls and complaints, the problem hasn’t gotten better, with New Democracy blaming the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA for an open door policy and for doing almost nothing to make the camps better, a problem critics said hasn’t improved.
“Many people are living without electricity, or even running water, in filth and waste,” Grandi’s press release said, repeating the same complaints other critics have made without much being done about it.
“The risks incurred by the most vulnerable people are among the worst seen in refugee crises across the world,” in said, as the EU keeps promising to do more and with no real accounting of where subsidies have gone that were aimed to better the camps.
Grandi said more refugees and migrants should be moved to the mainland, as island officials and residents have been clamoring, with about 9,000 transferred so far although the government said at least 20,00 would be moved.