UN refugee chief laments 'at risk' Syrians in Greece
Unaccompanied minors and women, and the elderly, face the risk of violence or sexual abuse, says Filippo Grandi
By Furkan Naci Top
Ending a two-day visit to Greece on Thursday, the UN high commissioner for refugees lamented the thousands of Syrians “at risk” of violence and sexual abuse in the country, especially unaccompanied women and children, and the elderly.
“There are some people, women with children, without their husbands, because the husbands often have gone off to Europe and they are waiting family reunification. There are many unaccompanied minors, there are more elderly people; these people are at risk. Especially in situations where violence -- often between the refugees themselves -- is very strong,” Commissioner Filippo Grandi told a press conference in Athens, after visiting refugee camps around Greece.
He also stressed the importance of a cease-fire in Syria. “We fully appreciate that the countries neighboring Syria have now taken a huge share of the refugee movement but let’s not forget that unless fighting stops inside, there is millions of people that are trapped inside the country.”
According to Grandi, Greece’s Deputy Interior Minister Giannis Mouzalas told him that 1,600 more places are needed for unaccompanied refugee minors, even though the Greek government has already been able to accommodate hundreds of them.
As of early August, nearly 1,500 unaccompanied children were registered in Greece, on the waiting list for shelter, according to UNHCR figures.
“Unaccompanied minors are extremely exposed to exploitation of many kinds and in particular sexual exploitation. There is a lot of survival sex that is happening, there is sexual harassment and sexual abuse. I think that this is something we cannot tolerate, in particular in the European Union,” Grandi said.
UNHCR data, also, show that in 2016 alone, 162,604 refugees and migrants arrived in Greece, almost half of them of Syrian origin.
“For those people moving out of Syria, it has become almost impossible. The borders of Syria are almost all of them closed. Turkey maintains to its credit an open-border policy, but it’s a highly managed open-border policy, where crossing has to be done in certain places, at certain hours and not everybody can [cross], so it is difficult,” Grandi explained.
“The sense is that there shouldn’t be a huge movement of arrival, largely because the [European] borders are closed, refugees know it and they don’t want to get stuck here [in Greece], so there is not many that are really choosing that option,” he added.
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