UNHCR slams migrant conditions

Combined reports

Greece must send doctors, interpreters and social workers as a matter of urgency to help migrants crammed into detention centers at its border with Turkey, the UN refugee agency said yesterday. The agency said migrants detained in the border area are typically crammed into cells with «dire hygiene conditions.» Nearly nine in 10 illegal immigrants use Greece as a springboard into the European Union and arrivals by land - mostly from Turkey - have increased by more than a third in a year, putting pressure on the country's northern border regions. «Men, women and children are crammed together with little space, in dire hygiene conditions and without access to yards,» the UNHCR said after a visit to detention centers near the Evros River, which forms the border. «We are deeply concerned by the detention conditions... it's a real emergency situation and requires urgent action,» said UNHCR spokeswoman Ketty Kehayioylou. More than 36,000 people crossed into Greece illegally in the first half of this year - most of them across the Evros - out of a total of 41,000 illegal entries at European Union borders, according to data from the bloc's border agency. In 2009, only 9,000 arrived illegally in the Evros region. The UNHCR called on Greek authorities and EU countries to take action to improve detention conditions and provide social, medical and psychological care, as well as interpreters and legal advice. «Essential services, such as information to persons in detention, interpretation in a language in which they can communicate and legal counseling on the asylum procedure, are totally absent,» it said in the statement. Greece says it bears an unfair share of the immigration burden and needs more help from its partners to cope with the vast numbers trying to enter the EU.