Via The Guardian: Greece: severe weather places refugees at risk and government under fire. Excerpt:
Thousands of refugees are enduring freezing temperatures in flimsy tents across Greece as a result of the arctic blast that has swept across Europe, triggering criticism abroad and putting the government on the defensive.
In a robust exchange in parliament the migration policy minister, Yannis Mouzalas, conceded that people trapped in the country were living in appalling conditions exacerbated by severe cold weather and unprecedented snowfall nationwide.
“The situation in the hot spots is very bad,” he said. “Conditions on the islands are awful.”
The government has faced severe criticism over conditions in reception centres, which pose health and safety risks in the depths of winter.
Footage of tents weighed down by snow in the vastly overcrowded Moria camp in Lesbos has elicited particular consternation – and embarrassment for Mouzalas, who only days ago insisted that in light of government preparations there would be no refugees living in the cold. Reports of illness among elderly and unwell refugees have been rife, with agencies attributing outbreaks of pneumonia and flu to the lack of adequate shelter.
On Monday the images drew a sharp rebuke from the European commission. “The situation is untenable,” said a spokeswoman, Natasha Bertaud. “But we also have to be clear … that ensuring adequate reception conditions in Greece is a responsibility of Greek authorities.”
Temperatures have plunged to –5C on Lesbos, where authorities have struggled to cope with refugee numbers that surpassed capacity long ago. In other parts of Greece, including the southern island of Crete, the cold snap has seen temperatures drop to an unprecedented –14C. In the Attica region surrounding Athens – where efforts have been under way to place people in rented apartments – sub-zero temperatures were also recorded with snow blanketing ancient monuments.
The unusually cold readings are expected to continue through to Thursday.