Europe Faces Humanitarian Crisis over Migrant Build-up in Greece: UNHCR

World » SOUTHEAST EUROPE | March 1, 2016, Tuesday // 16:46
Bulgaria: Europe Faces Humanitarian Crisis over Migrant Build-up in Greece: UNHCR Members of the Macedonian special police forces guard an illegal border crossing between Macedonia and Greece, near the town of Gevgelija, Macedonia, 21 August 2015. File photo EPA/BGNES

The UN Refugee Agency has warned of an imminent humanitarian crisis in Europe, largely of Europe's own making, after the number of migrants and refugees stranded in Greece built up rapidly over the past weeks.

"With governments not working together despite having already reached agreements in a number of areas, and country after country imposing new border restrictions, inconsistent practices are causing unnecessary suffering and risk being at variance with EU and international law standards," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards has told a press briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.

The number of refugees and migrants stranded in Greece and needing accommodation had jumped to 24,000 as of Monday night, Edwards has said, according to a UNHCR press release. Out of that total, some 8,500 were at Idomeni, near Greece’ border with Macedonia.

Edwards saidthat at least 1,500 had spent the previous night in the open with food, shelter, water and sanitation in short supply.

Tensions have been building, fuelling violence and playing into the hands of people smugglers," Edwards was quoted as saying in the news release.

Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR's Regional Refugee Coordinator for the Refugee Crisis in Europe, called for Europe to implement the burden-sharing agreements reached last year.

"It is time for Europe to wake up, either we have a massive orderly relocation from Greece or a repeat of what we saw last year, more chaos and confusion," Cochetel has said at the briefing.

The number of refugees and migrants in Greece could more than triple in March, reaching as many as 70,000, Greek Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas has said on Sunday after EU members Slovenia and Croatia, as well as non-EU Macedonia and Serbiaannounced last week that they would cap the number of arrivals on their territory to 580 a day.

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Tags: europe, greece, Idomeni, macedonia, migrants, refugees, UNHCR
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