Hotels on the Greek island of Lesvos will be putting up refugees including pregnant women, seniors and children who have been living in summer tents under sub-zero temperatures and snow.
”Hotels on Lesvos have opened and we are making efforts to offer shelter in this way to those who are not living in heated tents,’’ said Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Toskas, adding that ‘’we are trying to do our best under the given difficult circumstances”.
The UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and its partner NGO Iliachtida have begun to transfer some 120 refugees to island hotels which will include food and heat under a short-term relocation program funded by the EU.
Migrants living in the Moria camp on Lesvos will have access to heated tents and efforts are being made to increase more heated spaces, while rights groups and the EU are calling on the Greek government to accelerate the moving of asylum-seekers from the Aegean islands to the Greek mainland.
The refugee situation is “first and foremost” the responsibility of the Greek authorities, the European Commission said in a statement on Monday.
The UNHCR is also urging EU governments to help resolve the situation in Greece through relocations of asylum-seekers to other member states. On January 4, only 7,760 asylum seekers – 12 percent of the 66,400 agreed last year – had left Greece or were scheduled to leave under the EU Relocation Mechanism agreed in 2015 to relocate within two years.
UNHCR is appealing to EU member states to ”respect their previous commitments and offer additional spaces without further delay”.