UN Migration Agency Sounds Alarm as Severe Weather Conditions Grip Europe, Eastern Mediterranean
Switzerland - IOM today expressed its concern for thousands of migrants, asylum seekers and others enduring freezing winter conditions across Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. The region has been hit by some of the heaviest snowfall and the most severe icy temperatures in years.
With temperatures hovering below zero (centigrade) across the Continent, the United Nations Migration Agency has learned of dozens of deaths due to exposure—including those of migrants recently arrived in cities like Rome and of others in transit across the Balkans.
IOM has noted the discovery of two Iraqi migrants found frozen to death in a forest in Bulgaria and at least two others—a Somali in Bulgaria and an Afghan in Greece—who also were reported dead. In Lebanon two Syrian refugees reportedly died crossing snow-bound mountain passes. IOM also has learned of some 100 incidents of tents collapsing in makeshift refugee settlements in Lebanon.
Of particular concern in this extreme weather are the more than 15,500 migrants and asylum seekers housed in camps on Greek Islands, including many in places that have been hard hit this week with snowfall. Additionally, some 6,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey are reported to be without adequate, winterized shelter—out of a total refugee population of three million. IOM also reports that in Serbia, around 1,000-1,500 migrants are currently living in very difficult circumstances in Belgrade. They are, however, visited and counselled on a daily basis by the Government, IOM and other partners to accept being transferred to the official receptions centres where temporary, winterized emergency shelter can be provided. So far, however, the migrants have refused to move.
European migration flows are continuing and those most impacted by the weather are the migrants - especially vulnerable families with children.
“After 2016, a year in which more than 5,000 migrants died trying to reach safety in Europe, it is imperative that the world respond to the dangers exposed by these extreme weather conditions with food aid, shelter and other resources in the short term and long term,” said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing on Tuesday.