ATHENS, Greece (AP) – The U.N. refugee agency made an urgent appeal to Greece Friday to create more reception facilities at a border area with Turkey that has seen a surge in crossings in recent months by asylum-seekers from Syria and Iraq.
UNHCR said existing facilities in the Evros border region are overwhelmed after the number of arrivals swelled to 2,900 so far this month, half the estimated arrivals in the region for all of 2017. Refugees are crammed into local police stations, often in poor conditions, it said, while the only reception center in the area is already filled beyond its capacity of 240 people.
“Some of those in police detention have been held for more than three months. Conditions are dismal and services are limited,” UNHCR said in a statement.
For the first time in several years, the arrivals across the northern border have now outpaced arrivals on the islands, according to a UNHCR count, while it said at least eight people have died so far this year attempting to cross the Evros River that runs along the border with Turkey.
Many migrant traffickers have switched routes to the Evros region instead of islands in the eastern Aegean Sea, where most migrants are prevented from traveling to the mainland due to a deal reached in March 2016 between the European Union and Turkey to stem the flow of people heading into the European Union.
UNHCR proposed an urgent increase in the capacity at the reception center in the Evros region, as well as an improvement of facilities and services there, the setting up of mobile reception and identification centers and the transfer of unaccompanied children to safe accommodation.
There was no immediate reaction from the Greek government.