UNHCR claims advice on migrant facilities was ignored

UNHCR claims advice on migrant facilities was ignored

As authorities scramble to improve accommodation for thousands of migrants on Aegean islands amid forecasts of a new cold snap, a spokesperson for the United Nations refugee agency said Greek authorities have ignored proposals on how to ameliorate living conditions.

Speaking to reporters in Athens on Thursday, Giovanni Lepri of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said the organization had given Greece’s Migration Ministry three separate proposals on how to accommodate migrants, particularly at the overcrowded Moria center on Lesvos, but had received no response.

Asked about comments by European Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, according to which aid groups bear some responsibility for delays, Lepri said the commissioner was partly right but insisted that the final green light had to come from Greek authorities.

As for European Union plans to set up “closed” facilities, where migrants accused of crimes would be segregated from the rest, Lepri said the UNHCR could not play a role in supporting any kind of detention center.

Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas has indicated that a closed center on Lesvos could ease tensions and has also called for the transfer of some migrants from the islands to facilities on the mainland in a way that would not undermine the implementation of a deal between Ankara and the EU to curb illegal migration.

The European Commission on Wednesday underlined the importance of “the steady delivery of results of the EU-Turkey statement” and called for “the full application of the Dublin rules in Greece… by mid-March,” referring to a regulation that stipulates the return of migrants to the first EU member-state they entered.

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