World View: UNHCR: Greece’s Islands Kos, Chios, Lesbos are in ‘Total Chaos’ over Migrants

Argiris Mantikos/Eurokinissi, via Reuters
Argiris Mantikos/Eurokinissi, via Reuters

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Hungary speeds up construction of anti-migrant border fence
  • UNHCR: Greece’s islands Kos, Chios, Lesbos are in ‘total chaos’ over migrants

Hungary speeds up construction of anti-migrant border fence

Hungary's border fence is to be completed by end of August (Reuters)
Hungary’s border fence is to be completed by end of August (Reuters)

According to Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán, who is personally disliked by other EU leaders, more than 100,000 migrants have crossed into Hungary from outside the EU since the start of 2015. Most of the migrants have crossed into Hungary from Serbia, which is not an EU country.

On June 17, Hungary announced that it would build a 175km (109 mile) steel border fence along the Serbian border to keep migrants from entering Hungary. ( “25-Jun-15 World View — Hungary and Austria in disagreement over migrants”)

The fence was originally scheduled for completion by the end of November, but now construction has been sped up, with the intention of building it by the end of August. The government is using prisoners and unemployed people to build the fence as quickly as possible. In addition, Hungary plans to deal with migrants caught cutting through the fence by “punishing [them] in an exemplary manner,” including prison sentences.

But in a sense, building the fence is backfiring. As word spread among migrants planning to come to Hungary that the fence was being built, many of them sped up their plans. As a result, daily numbers of migrants caught by police have been rising steadily, from 300 a day in April to 400 daily in May, to 1,500 a day since mid-July. BBC and AP

UNHCR: Greece’s islands Kos, Chios, Lesbos are in ‘total chaos’ over migrants

Although Italy has been the country most in the news recently with regard to migrants arriving in Europe, with Calais France close behind, the country that has actually had to deal with the most migrants is Greece.

About 124,000 migrants have arrived in Greece this year, about 50,000 in July alone. In most cases, they arrive via Turkey mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Their first point of arrival in Greece is usually three Greek islands: Kos, Chios and Lesbos.

The UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) agency said on Friday that the situation on the three Greek islands is “total chaos,” with inadequate accommodation, water and sanitation. According to Vincent Cochetel, the European director of the agency, the facilities for refugees on the Greek islands were “totally inadequate,” and Greece must “lead and coordinate” the efforts of the EU countries:

On most of the islands there is no reception capacity, people are not sleeping under any form of roof. So it’s total chaos on the islands.

After a couple of days they are transferred to Athens, there is nothing waiting for them in Athens.

Greece’s prime minister Alexis Tsipras has been highly critical of European officials on the issue of Greece’s bailout, and is demanding aid to handle the tsunami of refugees: “The EU is being tested on the issue of Greece. It has responded negatively on the economic front – that’s my view. I hope it will respond positively on the humanitarian front.” BBC and Reuters

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Hungary, Viktor Orbán, Serbia, Greece, Kos, Chios, Lesbos, Alexis Tsipras, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, Vincent Cochetel
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