UN agency voices concern after Greece closes camp housing asylumseekers

14 July 2009The United Nations refugee agency today voiced its concern about Greece’s decision to close down a makeshift camp in the city of Patras, and the fate of hundreds of asylum-seekers and refugees that are now homeless as a result of this weekend’s action. Greek authorities cleared the camp on Sunday morning, Ron Redmond, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a news conference in Geneva. “UNHCR has long maintained that the makeshift camp at Patras did not provide appropriate accommodation for the people sheltering there,” he stated. “However, UNHCR is concerned that no alternative has been provided for many of the people who had been living at the site.”The agency said it is important that the asylum-seekers affected by the operation are not expelled from the country until their protection needs have been appropriately assessed.When the authorities moved in, 44 unaccompanied minors were found and transferred to a reception centre in Konitsa in northern Greece. Another 20 to 25 registered asylum-seekers were identified and moved to Patras, while an unknown number of undocumented residents of the camp were arrested and taken to Patras police station, according to UNHCR.“We understand that many former residents – including registered asylum-seekers – abandoned the site before the clearance operation. Their whereabouts are unknown. It is feared that many are homeless,” said Mr. Redmond. He added that after all the residents were evacuated a fire ripped through the camp, the source of which is unknown. UNHCR said it has been urging Greek authorities to improve the quality of its reception facilities for asylum-seekers, and in particular to find adequate solutions for those identified as minors. The agency also highlighted its concern over a new law adopted last week which, among other elements, decentralizes asylum decisions to over 50 police directorates across the country. “These new developments are likely to make protection even more elusive for those who need it in Greece,” said Mr. Redmond.Video Report by UN Television’s 21st Century programme

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