Aegean islands: Greece should urgently transfer asylum seekers and improve their living conditions

Commissioner for Human Rights Strasbourg 31 October 2019
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©Giorgos Moutafis

©Giorgos Moutafis

“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,” said today the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, at the end of a five-day visit to Greece during which she visited reception facilities in Lesvos, Samos, and Corinth.

The Commissioner is appalled by the unhygienic conditions in which migrants are kept in the islands. “It is an explosive situation. There is a desperate 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 these are available. On Samos, families are chipping away at rocks to make some space on steep hillsides to set up their makeshift shelters, often made from trees they cut themselves. This no longer has anything to do with the reception of asylum seekers. This has become a struggle for survival.”

Praising the strength of the asylum seekers and the solidarity of humanitarian staff and local communities who are trying to bring some measure of dignity to the camps, the Commissioner calls on the Greek authorities to take urgent measures to meet the vital needs of all these people and safeguard their human rights. “If not urgently and adequately addressed, these abysmal conditions, combined with existing tensions, risk leading to further tragic events,” she adds.

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