Wednesday 7 December 2016

Crisis as 1,000 refugees queue in Kos stadium

Alan Amos in Greece

Published 15/08/2015 | 02:30

The island is now at the forefront of a humanitarian crisis sweeping the financially broken country
The island is now at the forefront of a humanitarian crisis sweeping the financially broken country

Locked in a sunbaked football stadium without food or water, about 1,000 refugees have queued for hours to register with overwhelmed Greek authorities on the holiday island of Kos.

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The island is now at the forefront of a humanitarian crisis sweeping the financially broken country.

Inside the stadium, three police clerks were struggling to register hundreds of refugees, and for the second day used fire extinguishers to control the jostling crowd. An estimated 300 travel documents were handed out by early afternoon.

"The situation here is very bad and police here, they beat a boy, they beat a man, they beat children. It's too bad," Syrian refugee Laith Saleh, who is in the stadium, said. "We can't go out."

Representatives of Doctors Without Borders, the medical charity also known as Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) which is working in Kos, deplored the conditions in the stadium, where most refugees were sent after being evicted from makeshift camps all around the town.

"What we see now is a completely disproportionate focus on security management of these people without the relative humanitarian assistance that they need," MSF's Vangelis Orfanoudakis said.

"There are just two toilets, no access to water, they now have put a water hose for all the people. The situation is really dramatic," he said.

Scores of Syrians landed early midweek, crossing the 2.5-mile strait from Turkey in rubber boats - which, in many cases, local men rush to carry away for their own use.

"I feel good to be here, but I still miss my family in Syria," said Omar Mohammad, a 25-year-old English literature graduate from Aleppo.

He said the three-hour crossing from Turkey was his third attempt to reach Greece in four days. On two previous occasions, Turkish officials had prevented him from leaving.

Unlike during past immigration crises in Greece since the early 1990s, the refugees do not want to stay. Their destinations are wealthy countries such as Germany or the Netherlands, and all they seek from Greece is temporary travel papers to continue their trek through the Balkans and central Europe.

Irish Independent

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