Selin ATAY-TDO-The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) urged Greece on Friday to increase efforts to address "alarming" overcrowding and precarious conditions for asylum seekers and migrants staying on the five Aegean islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros.
"UNHCR has been appealing to the Greek government to use emergency measures to expedite its plans to transfer a greater number of asylum-seekers to appropriate accommodation on the mainland," said UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic at a regular UN briefing.
The agency said that more than 36,000 asylum seekers were currently staying in reception centers across five islands initially designed with a capacity of 5,400.
It said Greece had been "generous and compassionate towards refugees, despite a very complex and difficult situation," noting that the east Aegean islands had shouldered a disproportionate burden and responsibility.
"It is critical that other regions in Greece step up their solidarity to help alleviate pressures by receiving transferred asylum seekers and opening up reception places," said Mahecic.
UNHCR said continued European support in terms of resources, capacity and solidarity were also needed to boost Greece's response.