Greece is Making Progress in Handling Refugees

Greece, a country at the forefront of the refugee crisis in the past three years, is making progress in addressing the issue, said Greek officials Wednesday on the occasion of the World Refugee Day.

About 68.5 million people were displaced in 2017, including more than 22 million refugees, according to the latest data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Greek officials said at a press conference in Athens, presenting the recent figures on the management of refugee crisis in Greece.

Some 62,000 asylum seekers are currently hosted in the country after more than 1 million landed on Greek shores since early 2015 before borders to central Europe closed in the winter of 2016, according to the Greek Ministry of Migration Policy.

In the first quarter of 2018, Greek authorities recorded 25,578 new arrivals, up from 14,222 in the same period in 2017, as the 2016 EU-Turkey deal to stem the influx is tested.

Deputy Minister of Migration Policy Yannis Balafas said Greece has made much progress in its management of refugees as the living conditions at reception centers have been improved, adding that 24,487 refugees and migrants are living in apartments.

"We now have many positive changes. Against simple facilities at the reception centers, inexperienced staffers receiving the refugees and other inadequacies in the beginning, we have now put everything on the right track and things are becoming orderly," he said.

Balafas underlined the grave challenges posed, like continuous influx of refugees into the country who delay in their relocation to other parts of Europe, stressing that all sides should fulfill their obligations to people in need.

Philippe Leclerc, UNHCR representative in Greece, on his part welcomed Greece's efforts in addressing the crisis, urging for more work to be done by the international community to deal with the roots of the problem by helping put an end to conflicts.

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