Aid agencies in Greece have warned that “appalling” conditions for thousands of stranded refugees are becoming increasingly explosive. In an excoriating indictment of official efforts to handle the emergency, Human Rights Watch said a humanitarian crisis was unfolding in the Athens port of Piraeus that needed urgently to be addressed.
“Thousands of asylum seekers and migrants … face appalling conditions as the crisis for people trapped in Greece due to border closures intensifies,” a report released by the group said on Thursday.
“[People] are sleeping in squalid, unsanitary and unsafe conditions in passenger waiting areas, in an old warehouse, in tents outdoors and even under trucks,” it said.
About 5,000 men, women and children were dependent entirely on volunteers in the absence of any visible government support. Fights had erupted as tensions escalated, with aid workers often forced to intervene.
Close to 50,000 migrants and refugees are trapped in the country. On Thursday, for the first time since a controversial EU deal with Turkey to halt the influx was brought into force, Greece announced that no arrivals had been registered on any of the Aegean islands that have borne the brunt of the flows. Officials, however, were hesitant to say whether the no-shows were due to a Nato flotilla patrolling the Aegean, or gale-force winds that had made crossings from the Turkish coast especially dangerous.