UN warns Greek islands facing migrant ‘chaos’

UNHCR warns that refugee facilities on Greek islands 'totally inadequate' and that people are made to sleep without a roof over their heads

Migrants are helped off a dingy as they land at the island of Lesbos
Migrants are helped off a dingy as they land at the island of Lesbos

The Greek islands of Kos, Chios and Lesbos are in “total chaos” due to a heavy influx of refugees, the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR have warned.

The organisation said that around 50,000 migrants arrived in Greece in July alone, more arrivals than in the whole of 2014. The majority of them are refugees fleeing the wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

UNHCR European Director, Vincent Cochetel said that refugee facilities on the Greek islands are "totally inadequate” and called on the EU to do more to ease Greece off its burden.

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

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras admitted that his country was unable to cope and that Greece’s economic problems meant it was facing a humanitarian "crisis within a crisis".

Save the Children said that refugee children are at risk of exploitation and disease in Greece due to the lack of facilities.

"The risk to a child forced to sleep on the street of being abused, or of a baby dying of heatstroke, is very real," Kitty Arie from the charity said. "This is Europe in 2015. We can't leave these children in this desperate situation."

Separately, another UNHCR official described refugee conditions at Austria's main reception camp, 20km south of Vienna, as "intolerable, dangerous and inhumane".

Around 4,500 people are at the camp, which was built to house 1,800, and many are now sleeping in the open.

Most refugees arrived in Austria via neighbouring Hungary - both EU member states in the border-free Schengen zone, where passports are generally not checked.

Separately, Italian police have arrested five suspected human traffickers –two Libyans, two Algerians and a Tunisian - over the deaths of about 200 people after a migrant boat sank on Wednesday.

Survivors have said that the traffickers used knives to slash the heads off African migrants and belts to thrash Arabs to keep them in the hull.