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UNHCR straining to provide for refugees at Greek border

March 6, 2016 at 1:18 pm

The UNHCR said Saturday that it is having difficulty providing essential services to over 10,000 migrants along Greece’s border with Macedonia.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency in the Greek town of Idomeni, Babar Baloch, spokesman for the UN refugee agency, said the refugee camps at the border have a capacity of 1,600 people, but that figure has been surpassed many times over.

“There are over 10,000 people, including women and children, here, and we are expecting many more. We are having difficulty providing food and healthcare,” said Baloch.

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He added that most of the refugees are from Iraq and Syria and have used up all their resources, so now they face an unexpected impasse.

A Syrian refugee named Abdulmecid said he had been waiting 19 days at the camp to cross the border.

“We had to get our own tent. There are long queues for healthcare and food services. Whoever can’t make use of these facilities has to find their own way,” he said.

Greek authorities have been pressed to prepare for a swell of refugees remaining in Greece for longer periods as countries along the Balkan route to Europe tighten border controls.

The number of migrants stuck along Greece’s Macedonian border rose after Balkan countries put new regulations into effect limiting the admission of migrants to 500 a day.

The tighter regulations led to a sharp increase in the number of refugees in Greece, now standing at more than 22,000.

Immigration Minister Giannis Mouzalas said that next month, as the weather in the Aegean Sea is set to improve, Greece is expecting up to more 70,000 refugees.

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In recent weeks, Austria has placed strict limits on the inflow of migrants, causing a domino effect through the Balkans and leading to criticism from other EU members and refugee agencies.

Athens has threatened to block decisions at an EU-Turkey summit on Monday unless the EU forces members to take their share of refugees.