The human misery being endured by refugees has reached a deplorable peak at the overcrowded Idomeni camp on the Greek border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), a UN refugee agency spokesman said Sunday.
More than 14,000 people are stuck in and around the overflowing camp, with basic living conditions deteriorating as they wait for a border closed last week to be reopened.
"We are seeing human misery at its peak in Europe. These conditions here at the Idomeni border site are just unliveable," said visiting UNHCR head Babar Baloch.
"It has just gone beyond imagination how bad it can get and each day we are getting more rain, people are suffering," added Baloch after getting a first-hand view.
Greek authorities say there are some 12,000 people in the camp. NGOs say more than 2,000 others are having to survive in fields beyond its perimeter.
Conditions have become unhygienic in the extreme — toilets have overflowed while dozens of children have been hospitalised suffering from breathing difficulties and an assortment of viruses.
One nine-year-old Syrian girl with hepatitis A was hospitalised at nearby Thessaloniki, where the KEELPNO disease prevention centre reported her condition as stable.
The Greek government said Saturday it would deal with the crisis at Idomeni within a week by transferring refugees there to other reception centres.
But the UNHCR underlined the situation required urgent attention.
"We as UNHCR hope that the Greek authorities move fast … because remaining here even one minute is not an option," said Baloch.
"They cannot be kept here for long in these inhumane conditions. They need to be offered a way out of here and they are desperate. You see children shivering, walking barefoot on the road here in this misery. It is just unimaginable.”
Sunday saw a 200-strong group of Syrians and Iraqis, including many children, demonstrate at Idomeni, demanding the border be re-opened, just the latest in a succession of daily protests.
The refugees are clinging on, despite the atrocious conditions, in the hope that an EU summit on Thursday will bring decisions to aid their plight and lead to the border being reopened.