By Fatih Erel
GENEVA (AA): The UN’s refugee agency on Friday expressed deep concern at the situation of refugees and migrants struggling with life-threatening winter conditions across Europe.
“We are deeply worried at the situation of some 1,000 people, including families with young children, who continue to live under unheated tents and dormitories in [the Greek island of] Samos,” UNHCR spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly told a news conference in Geneva.
“We reiterate our call to further accelerate procedures on the [Greek] islands to allow faster transfers to the mainland, where better accommodation is available.”
Turning to refugees in Serbia, Pouilly said: “We are concerned at the situation of some 1,200 males who still stay rough in inadequate informal sites in the Belgrade city center, including up to 300 unaccompanied or separated boys. We urge the authorities to continue their efforts to expand emergency shelter capacities, with particular consideration to the specific needs of unaccompanied children.”
Noting how the bodies of two Iraqi men were found on Jan. 6 in southeastern Bulgaria after they crossed over from Turkey, Pouilly said: “The UNHCR is extremely concerned by reports that several refugees and migrants have lost their lives trying to enter or move across Europe, including five since the beginning of the year, due to the freezing weather.
“Given the harsh winter conditions, we are extremely concerned by reports that authorities in all countries along the western Balkans route continue to push back refugees and migrants from inside their territory to neighboring countries. In several cases, refugees and migrants have alleged that police have subjected them to violence.”
[Photo: Refugees stand in line for food distributed by Hot Food Idomeni outside a derelict warehouse where they took shelter in Belgrade, Serbia on January 12, 2017. Photographer: Muhabiri Josep Vecino/AA]