greece migrants camp.jpg
Photograph: EPA/NIKOS ARVANITIDIS

Amnesty International on Thursday blamed European leaders for the plight of refugees stranded in Greek camps and urged for a faster relocation to EU countries.

Governments need to accelerate the relocation of nearly 60,000 refugees who are now living under squalid conditions while their asylum requests are processed, the London-based watchdog said.

Those granted asylum are to be relocated to the European Union, through its internal relocation or family reunification mechanisms. "But EU member states are, for the most part, either stalling or actively resisting" the programmes, Amnesty said.

It urged governments to pledge more room for refugees stuck in Greece and accelerate their relocation, as well as a fast-track family reunification procedure for people waiting in Greece while their relatives are already in European countries.

Amnesty also recommended allowing family members to reunite not only with relatives with a refugee status, but also with those under subsidiary protection.

Greece and EU should jointly do more to ease the suffering of stranded refugees, Amnesty said, describing conditions in around 50 overcrowded camps as "appalling."

Children, women, the elderly and people with disabilities mostly lack protection and care, it said, urging for better accommodation, services and security.

Greece was the gateway for around 1 million refugees and migrants surging from Turkey, across the Balkans, toward wealthy EU countries in 2015-16. 

Turkey agreed in March, in return for EU assistance, to do more to stop people from travelling toward Greek islands. That has slowed the rate of arrivals to a trickle but has not fully stopped it.

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