Geneva, Sep 6 (IANS) The UN has called for emergency evacuation of the thousands of refugees trapped on the Greek island of Lesbos, the media reported on Sunday.
According to an official report, over 17,000 refugees, mostly Syrians and Afghans, are living rough in and around the island’s main port of Mytilini, waiting for the Greek authorities to issue them with travel permits that would allow them to board ferries to Athens and from there journey through the Balkans to northern Europe, The Telegraph reported.
Mytilini has just one tiny office to deal with the thousands of refugees — a battered container unit inside the ferry terminal. Long queues form outside the office every day but opening hours are erratic and applications are being processed by just two police officers, the report said.
“We are calling for an evacuation of the refugees on Lesbos, in order to relieve the pressure,” Alessandra Morelli, the UNHCR representative on the island, told The Telegraph.
Under the plan, refugees would be allowed to board ferries without having to wait for travel permits — instead they would be processed and registered on their arrival in the port of Piraeus.
Without the permits, the refugees are not allowed to buy ferry tickets — they cannot even check into hotels on Lesbos.
“The situation is becoming unmanageable,” a UNHCR official said, adding “The longer the refugees stay, the harder it becomes for the islanders to tolerate the situation.”
There were clashes on Saturday night between angry, frustrated refugees and Greek riot police — the second such incident in two days.
So far this year, 366,000 migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean to Greece and Italy, the UNHCR said. Around 2,800 died or went missing en route.