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UN warns of migrant crisis challenges, urges Europe to support Greece

Migrants demonstrate inside the Moria registration centre on the Greek island of Lesbos

Serious challenges lie ahead in dealing with Europe’s migrant crisis, the United Nations’ refugee chief said on Wednesday as he urged the European Union to help its frontline member-country Greece manage the flows of people.

Greece, struggling to emerge from a severe debt crisis, has been the main gateway to Europe for nearly a million refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East. Thousands of migrants and asylum seekers are trapped in overcrowded camps in the country since an EU-Turkey pact came into force this year.

“Challenges are very serious and we need to continue to address them together. Especially living conditions, security in refugee sites, overcrowding in the islands,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

“Winter is coming, we need to organise,” he said after meeting Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Athens has asked the European Union to speed up the relocation of migrants and refugees to other member states.

It is also seeking new facilities to alleviate its overcrowded hotspot centres on five islands. Most of its camps have been criticised by humanitarian organisations as having poor, unsanitary and unsafe conditions.

During his three-day visit to Athens, the second this year, Grandi said UNHCR would keep pushing the EU for more support.

But he also underlined that efforts to end the conflict in Syria and other war-torn countries should be stepped-up.

“Refugees are mostly the result of unresolved conflict and until and unless we solve those conflicts the risk of new influxes and new emergencies cannot be excluded,” he said.

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