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Refugees blocked at the Greek-Macedonian border

20 January 2016 / 18:01:45  GRReporter
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Macedonia's decision to suspend the access to the neutral zone on the border with Greece at the village of Idomeni has blocked the passage of refugees to Central and Western Europe.

According to the Greek police, border crossing was suspended at 07:00 pm on Tuesday. As a result, 350 refugees travelling by seven buses waited for hours near a petrol station, at a distance of 20 km.

According to Antonis Rigas of "Doctors without Borders", the Greek authorities are not allowing the activation of the temporary refugee camp near the neutral zone, which was disbanded two months ago, despite the appeals on the part of non-profit organizations.

In his words, the refugees are waiting for hours in the cold instead of finding shelter in the tents equipped with heating appliances that the representatives of organizations have arranged for. Rigas states that last night the borders to Croatia were closed for refugees.

At the same time, the influx of refugees and migrants is not stopping despite the bad weather and risks of travelling by sea. Earlier today, a five-year child died when a boat carrying refugees sank. According to the information available to date, the child died due to hypothermia, despite the attempts of the intensive care unit in Skala Sikamias on the island of Lesbos to save his life. 46 people have been rescued from the particular shipwreck but it is not clear if there are people missing. A woman also died of hypothermia during the trip, near the Turkish coast.

Weather conditions were severe today in northern Lesbos, where the boats are arriving. The temperature was about 0°C, which makes it extremely difficult for the arriving refugees and migrants, who are often unaware of the risks of such a journey, to survive.

Despite the cold, 1,028 people arrived in Lesbos yesterday and 828 of them were registered by 09:00 am today at the registration centre for refugees in Moriah. According to the police authorities on the island, more than 1,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Lesbos today, from early morning until twelve o’clock, among whom hundreds of children.

In this situation, Greece has only four weeks to build the reception and registration centres (hotspots) before the final date, as stated by EU Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos. In his opinion, the refugee influx is not over yet, in fact the signs seem to indicate the opposite, and the number of refugee waves will increase in the coming months.

For his part, Greek Minister for Migration Yiannis Mouzalas admitted that Greece was late in building the hotspots, adding that this fact could not be a cause for "some to shake a finger at Greece and punish it. To the contrary, it must be regarded as an opportunity to help it." Mouzalas criticized Turkey's position in the refugee crisis management, stressing that Ankara was doing nothing to implement its commitments. "Over the past 15 days we have extradited 130 people to Turkey. At the same time, 30,000 refugees and illegal migrants have arrived from Turkey to Greece. Comparing the two figures does not lead to a solution. Europe needs to start working so that returning migrants becomes faster and involves more people," the Minister said.

Tags: SocietyRefugees and migrantsLesbosWeatherSinking boatsReception and registration centres
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