UN urges asylum center aid

The UN refugee agency on Wednesday called for the government to help provide better funding, more resources and uniform practices at reception centers for unaccompanied children and single mothers seeking asylum in Greece. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Greece commissioned a study into conditions at 12 centers and hostels around the country, which found a substantial lack of resources and facilities. The study was conducted between January 2001 and August 2003, during which 323 children separated from their parents, 82 single mothers and 106 single women were being housed in the centers visited. Greece’s seven reception centers have a total capacity of 1,000 people but authorities received some 8,000 asylum applications in 2003 and 4,000 so far in 2004, according to Robert White, the UNHCR representative in Greece. «Every year funding is a big problem for reception centers. Without funding there will never be minimum standards,» said White. The report found that only two centers, at Lavrion and Anogeia, had steady funding. White highlighted the fact that there is only one center that specializes in housing unaccompanied children, in the isolated Cretan village of Anogeia. The center only has a capacity for 20 children though 700 had claimed asylum in Greece over the last three years, said White. Doctor Theodora Tsovili, co-author of the report, said that although living conditions at the centers were improving, they needed more specially trained personnel. «The people who run the centers and work there do the best they can but that is not enough,» said Tsovili. She added that the asylum seekers also needed better access to social workers, translators, nurses and legal aid.