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UNHCR warns of humanitarian crisis in Greece as influx rises

IANS  |  Geneva 

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) warned on Tuesday that Greece is on the verge of a humanitarian crisis as disunity and inconsistency continue to mar European response plans.

"For us, there is no plan B. Relocation is one of the important solidarity measures vis-a-vis Greece. Solidarity can't be just financial transfer to Greece," Xinhua cited UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) director of the bureau for Europe Vincent Cochetel as saying.

"Greece needs a safety valve, and that safety valve is the orderly intake of refugees through the relocation process," he added.

The EU member states agreed in September last year to a relocation scheme to alleviate the refugee and migrant crisis mainly affecting Greece and Italy, the two top EU destinations for migrant arrivals.

The UN refugee agency revealed that despite commitments to relocate 66,400 refugees from Greece, states have but pledged 1,539 spaces, while only 325 relocations have actually taken place.

"Countries have to wake up, there is no other plan," said Cochetel.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) figures show that 120,369 refugees and migrants, many of them Syrians fleeing conflict, have reached Greek shores since the beginning of the year.

Over one million migrant arrivals were recorded in Europe in 2015, with over 850,000 in Greece.

First Published: Tue, March 01 2016. 20:52 IST