Greece, Europe must act to end “totally shameful” migrant situation, UN says

The conditions for migrants on many Greek islands are “totally shameful” the director of the U.N.’s refugee agency says, calling for Greece and Europe to act to end the crisis.

NEAR MOLIVOS, LESBOS, GREECE (REUTERS) – The United Nations refugee agency called on Greece on Friday (August 7) to take control of the “total chaos” on Mediterranean islands where thousands of migrants have landed.

European Union member states must also do more to share the burden of Greece, where 50,000 people arrived in July alone, said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR director for Europe, after visiting the Greek islands of Lesbos, Kos and Chios.

“I’ve been working 30 years with the UNHCR, I’ve visited many African countries, countries in Asia, I’ve never seen a situation like that. I’ve never seen a situation like that. This is the European Union and this is totally shameful,” he said of conditions on the islands.

NGOs staffed with volunteers have been stepping in to help with sanitation at migrant camps on Lesbos, which is separated only by the narrow Mytilini strait from neighbouring Turkey and is a common route for migrants trying to reach Europe from Asia.

But the conditions they find when they land on the islands are “totally inadequate”, Cochetel said.

“On most of the islands, there is no reception capacity, people are not sleeping under any form of roof. They are living in the open, in parks, in streets, in sites that have not even been allocated by the local authorities. So it’s total chaos on the island,” he added saying that Greece must lead the response.

“We believe that Greece and Europe need to wake up to that emergency refugee situation, take the lead,” he said.

Cochetel said that substantially more financial resources were required than have currently been provided by the European Union if progress was to be made.

Work also needed to be done to improve migrant registration, he said.