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article imageMigrants on Greek islands 'on edge of catastrophe': Council of Europe

By AFP     Oct 31, 2019 in World

The situation for migrants in camps on Greek islands is "explosive" and "on the edge of catastrophe", the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights said Thursday.

"The situation of migrants, including asylum seekers, in the Greek Aegean islands has dramatically worsened over the past 12 months. Urgent measures are needed to address the desperate conditions in which thousands of human beings are living," Dunja Mijatovic told reporters at the end of a five-day visit.

Greece has once again become the main point of entry for people seeking asylum in Europe, and the country is struggling to accommodate over 70,000 migrants and refugees on its soil.

Despite regular relocations to the mainland, there are over 34,000 people living in overcrowded Greek island camps.

Mijatovic, who visited camps on the islands of Lesbos and Samos and in Corinth, said she was "appalled" by the unhygienic conditions in which asylum-seekers live on the islands.

"There is a crying lack of medical care and sanitation in the vastly overcrowded camps I have visited. People queue for hours to get food and to go to bathrooms, when they exist," she said.

"On Samos, families are chipping away rocks to make some space on steep hillsides to set up their makeshift shelters, often made by trees they cut themselves. This no longer has anything to do with the reception of asylum seekers. This has become a struggle for survival."

Greece's new conservative government which took over in July has vowed to tighten asylum rules, step up naval patrols to deter migrant boats and to send 10,000 people back to Turkey next year.

The Greek parliament on Thursday is to adopt a new migration law enshrining the policy changes, but Mijatovic says the draft she saw "raises concerns from a human rights perspective."

Human rights groups have also criticised the bill, saying it introduces stricter rules for receiving asylum seekers, delays access to the right to work, narrows the definition of family, and imposes more burdens on torture victims in being recognised as such.

hec-jph/txw

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