The extreme weather conditions sweeping through Greece have forced authorities to reconsider accommodation alternatives for refugees.
Lesvos hoteliers have responded to the emergency by putting up refugees including pregnant women, seniors and children who have been living in summer tents under sub-zero temperatures and snow.
NGOs and the UN Refugee Agency have begun to transfer some 120 refugees to island hotels which will include food and heat under a short-term relocation program funded by the EU.
“Hotels on Lesvos have opened and we are making efforts to offer shelter in this way to those who are not living in heated tents,’’ said Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Toskas, adding that ‘’we are trying to do our best under the given difficult circumstances”.
Meanwhile the Greek government has dispatched a navy ship to Lesbos in response to the crisis, to help provide accommodation to refugees and migrants at the island’s hotspots. The ship is fully equipped to receive any camp residents that lack adequate protection against the cold weather front that has led to freezing temperatures and filled the camp with snow.
According to sources, the ship chosen was the Jason Class Landing Ship (Tank) “Lesvos” that will set sail from Salamina naval station on Tuesday night. The ship is being loaded with equipment to house 500 refugees and migrants, including beds, stoves and mattresses. It is expected to arrive in Lesvos early on Wednesday afternoon, depending on the weather.
The UNHCR is also urging EU governments to help resolve the situation in Greece through relocations of asylum-seekers to other member states. On January 4, only 7,760 asylum seekers – 12 percent of the 66,400 agreed last year – had left Greece or were scheduled to leave under the EU Relocation Mechanism agreed in 2015 to relocate within two years.