Amid ‘dramatic’ increase in refugees, UN urges Greece and wider Europe to boost humanitarian response

Dozens of refugees arrived in Greece by sea in July 2015, mainly from countries experiencing war and conflict. Photo: UNHCR/J. Akkash

18 August 2015 – The escalating refugee crisis in Greece is continuing, with migrant arrivals accelerating “dramatically,” the United Nations warned today, urging the Greek Government to strengthen reception facilities and services and for wider Europe to bolster humanitarian coordination.

“The number of refugees and migrants arriving in Greece is accelerating dramatically and has now reached the 160,000 mark,” William Spindle, spokesperson of for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said at a press briefing in Geneva.

The latest data from the UN agency shows that as of 14 August, 158,456 refugees and migrants arrived in Greece by sea while 1,716 entered by land through turkey.

“The pace of arrivals has been steadily increasing in recent weeks,” said Mr. Spindle, adding that more refugees and migrants arrived in Greece during the month of July (50,242) than during the whole of last year (43,500).

During the week 8 to 14 August, 20,843 people arrived in Greece by sea, almost equal to half of those arrived in 2014, with the majority coming from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

According to UNHCR, the up-to-date figures from Greece bring the total number of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean this year to some 264,500, including 158,456 to Greece, approximately 104,000 to Italy, 1,953 to Spain and 94 to Malta.

However, there is a lack of reception infrastructure and registration procedures both on the islands and on the mainland, which need to be strengthened urgently.

As UNHCR is working to support Greece, “we are recommending Greek authorities to designate a single body to coordinate an emergency response and set up an adequate humanitarian assistance mechanism,” stated Mr. Spindle.

He also urged the Government to build up the conditions in the whole country, and said there was a need for neighbouring countries, such as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, to do the same.

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