The UN has reported that Europe is currently on the brink of “a largely self-induced humanitarian crisis” caused by an accumulation of migrants on Greek’s Northern border.
The following is a brief overview of the circumstances.
Greece is reported to be “the main entry point” into Western Europe for refugees seeking refuge.
The Idomeni camp, on the Greece-Macedonian border, has been a chosen location for many refugees hoping to reach its nearby train station in order to continue on their journey.
Following Austria’s lead, the Balkan states imposed a daily limit on the number of migrants who would be allowed to cross the border. Afghan migrants were not allowed to cross while stricter documentation regulations were imposed on Syrians and Iraqis as well.
Since the imposition of this limit, 8,500 people have accumulated along the Greece-Macedonian border waiting to continue on into Western Europe.
This is in spite of the fact that there are approximately 25,000 refugees currently living in Greece without accommodations. More are arriving every day, with 11 000 immigrants registering within the course a week.
The Idomeni camp, originally built to house 1,200, is beyond its maximum capacity and currently holding thousands.
When surveyed, approximately 1,500 migrants reported having slept the previous night outside, circumstances likely induced by this overcrowding.
Athens has been described as “ill-equipped” in regards to its ability to deal with the crisis.
In an effort to reduce the number of refugees in limbo, the Greek government has asked ferry drivers to “reduce services” aimed at bringing migrants to Athens from islands.
Despite Greece being criticized for its failure to manage new arrivals, the European Union has yet to propose any relocation plans aimed at helping Greece move the refugees.
As a result, Athens has requested emergency funds (half a billion euros) which will be used to provide emergency housing to the growing numbers of refugees.
In an effort to downsize the Idomeni camp, three other refugee camps were also created along the Greece-Macedonian border. They too have since filled up, however, housing approximately 2000 refugees each.
Macedonia states that it will only accept the same number of refugees as the other Western Balkan states (Serbia and Croatia) while Greece is calling for the EU to impose an immigrant quote system.
Adrian Edwards, a UN refugee agency spokesperson, has stated that overcrowding within the Idomeni camp has caused shortages of food, shelter, water, and sanitation.
Hundreds of tents have been erected around the main camp. Some individuals without sufficient resources, however, are forced to sleep outside at the mercy of the elements.
Increased rain and subzero night temperatures have increased the cases of sickness in the camp. The flu, in particular, has been spreading, especially among children.
Caroline Haga, an emergency coordinator for the International Red Cross has been quoted as saying that “[this] could turn into a very serious health concern”, especially when considering the cold and rainy weather conditions.
High levels of respiratory illnesses (such as bronchitis) havebeen reported, while large numbers of pregnant women are also in need of care.