Brussels and EU member states “must help” to support Greece, in what has been described as a “tinderbox set to explode” with the refugee crisis now reaching breaking point. Ever since Turkey opted to disobey its pact with the bloc, thousands of refugees have made the perilous journey to Greece in the hope of seeking asylum in the EU. But the situation has hit such a harrowing point, the IRC has revealed how unprepared the bloc truly is to cope with the current numbers in Greece – despite knowing about it for “months, even years”.
Imogen Sudbery, the International Rescue Committee’s Director of Policy and Advocacy, told Express.co.uk, that if more isn’t done to stem this trend of people coming to the Greek islands without others being moved on devastation could strike the country for years.
She said: “Once Turkey decided that it didn’t want to do this anymore, the EU was completely unprepared because we didn’t have a system where you could share the responsibility with different countries.
“So Greece has effectively decided it is no longer going to go along and process the asylum claims for people who are arriving and the situation now risks becoming even more of a crisis when something like coronavirus hits.”
Ms Sudbery argues that other EU member states must act “while they still can,” especially ahead of a potential virus outbreak within the destitute camps and centres on the Aegean Islands.
However, she did admit that securing any full agreement with the EU has “proved impossible”.
She claimed the bloc had been “at a deadlock for months, even years” over what exactly needs to be done to stem the worrying situation.
She added: “The trouble is this didn’t need to be a crisis on the island at all from the beginning. If the right response had been in place from European countries and all EU member states it would have been very manageable and have very small numbers if you divided the number of people arriving between all the different EU member states.
“There are thousands of unaccompanied children who are on the island and who haven’t been able to move to safe accommodation.
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“If each EU member state were to just take their fair share of those children it would only be 70 children per country.”
The Greek government has been given millions of euros to support it following the deal with Turkey four years ago.
However, Turkey decided it could no longer go along with the deal due to the EU’s flawed planning over what would happen to the migrants once they reached Greece.
It comes as 21 human rights and humanitarian organisations demanded Greece immediately reduce congestion of asylum seekers and migrants in a bid to stop a coronavirus outbreak.
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So far, no recorded cases have been found among the 38,000 people who currently occupy the centres and campsites within the islands’ refugee community.
But any infection could spread rapidly due to the close quarters they live within and the poor hygiene facilities they are currently using.
According to Human Rights Watch, international human rights law demands that the health needs of asylum seekers and migrants be addressed, and within the context of the coronavirus, that if public health or national emergency restrict this support, the group must be helped “lawfully, necessarily and proportionately”.
Eva Cosse, Greece researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “Restricting thousands of women, men and children in severely overcrowded camps, where living conditions are unacceptable, makes it impossible to isolate people exposed to COV-19 or to comply with minimum preventive and protective measures, even hand washing and social-distancing.
“The Greek government urgently needs to move people to mainland Greece.”
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