Migrant crisis: Greece calls on EU help as concerns mount over tensions at Macedonia border

Greece has activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to benefit from material support to help cope with the influx of refugees and asylum seekers in the country, the European Commission (EC) said on December 3.

Greece has requested items such as tents, generators, beds, sanitary equipment and emergency first aid kits. This voluntary delivery of aid is coordinated by the European Commission’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) which is working closely with the Greek authorities and the other participating states in the mechanism for a swift response to the request, the EC said.

Greece also agreed on December 3 on an operational plan with Frontex for a new operation at the Greek border with Macedonia, where the agency will assist with the registration of migrants. The deployment of additional officers will begin next week.

The same day, Greece put in a formal request for the deployment a Rapid Border Intervention Team operation to provide immediate border guard support at its external border in the Aegean islands. Frontex will now process the request as a matter of priority.

More than 50 000 people have arrived in Greece since November 1.

“The scale is immense and the Commission is working very closely with the Greek authorities to assist them in this challenge,” the EC said.

European Commission President Juncker asked the Director General for the Structural Reform Support Service to follow this process very closely and the Commission’s teams have been working hand in hand with the Greek authorities for months.

Meanwhile, noting that as a result of restrictions imposed by the authorities along the Western Balkans route, tensions have been rising at the border between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia, the United Nations refugee agency has called on the authorities of both countries to manage the border in a manner consistent with human rights and refugee-protection principles.

Limitations are being placed on refugees and migrants from countries other than Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq along, causing tensions at Idomeni, on the Greek side of the border, which have led on several occasions to violence and a temporary closure of the border, according to a news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN News Centre said on December 3.

The agency expressed deep concern at the situation and added that it is saddened by the death of a Moroccan man at the border on December 3 under as yet unclear circumstances.

Further, UNHCR underlined the need for the authorities to take appropriate action and called on the Greek authorities to restore security as a matter of priority in order to ensure the protection of those in need and the safety of humanitarian workers and volunteers.

Additionally, UNHCR said transportation has been facilitated for the refugees and migrants who have been refused admission into Macedonia to return to Athens, where reception facilities and assistance are available and UNHCR staff is present to offer individual advice and legal counselling on a case-by-case basis.

The agency reiterated concern over the consequences of border restrictions being implemented by several countries in the Balkans and recommended profiling people based on their protection needs as opposed to their nationality.

(A woman holds a young boy whose face bears signs of distress, near the town of Gevgelija, Republic of Macedonia, on the border with Greece. Photo: UNICEF/Tomislav Georgiev)



The Sofia Globe staff

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