Greek Refugee Centers Overstretched as Arrivals Hit Half Million Mark

New York, N.Y. As the number of refugee and migrant arrivals in Greece hits half a million, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned today of continuing “chaos” at overburdened reception centers – possibly threatening to undo Europe’s recently-agreed relocation program – unless reception conditions in frontline islands are improved.

10-20-2015Reception_CentreIn Greece, a crowd of Syrian refugees wait outside the Moria Identification Center
for their turn to register with
local authorities before continuing their
journey towards Central Europe. Photo: UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis.

“The spike in arrivals in Greece is sharply increasing reception pressures on the islands,” said UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming at the bi-weekly press briefing in Geneva. “Many of the refugees and migrants are desperate to quickly move onwards, fearing that borders ahead of them will close.”

“As of this morning, there were more than 27,500 people on the islands – either awaiting registration or onward transport to the mainland,” she continued.

“Additional police had to be called in on Sunday and yesterday to control the chaotic situation,” she said referring to an incident in which frustration among refugees and migrants boiled over at a reception center on Lesvos, leading to the evacuation of UNHCR staff and the temporary suspension of processing.

Ms. Fleming emphasized that it was important that reception centers in Greece and other parts of Europe be up to the task. “Without this essential element, the relocation program agreed by Europe in September is in serious peril and may fail,” she cautioned.

She also spoke about the number of deaths at sea of refugees and migrants, noting that 19 people, including infants and children, had died in the past nine days in five separate incidents, almost half of these over the weekend. In total, at least 3,135 people have died in the Mediterranean in 2015, she added.

Logos for HuffPo“This is why we have formed The Hellenic Fund of the J. Luce Foundation,” states Jim Luce, the charity’s founder. “On November fourth, here in New York we launch the fund to raise cash and publicity for all of the children of Greece — those devastated by the economic collapse, and those washing up on its shores. Of course, the need is larger than any government or even the United Nations can address, but if every citizen of the world did something, the situation could only improve.”

“I was deeply moved by the economic conditions I witnessed impacting the children of Greece when I visited there over the summer. When you add to it the waves of refugees to the Greek isles — many children — escaping the violence and destruction of countries such as Syria and Afghanistan, it is overwhelming. Yet,” Jim continued, “like the story of the starfish – our support will make all the difference to those who receive it.”

“The word philanthropy comes from the from Greek — ‘love of humanity’ — in the sense of caring and nourishing what it is to be human,” Jim added. “This is what we must do for the children, Greek and refugee, in Hellas.

The Hellenic Fund kick-off reception, beginning at 6pm on Wednesday, Nov. 4 at the renowned Yefsi Estiatorio on the Upper East Side, is the first The Orpheus Luxury Collection Symposium in Support of selected charities.

“I will be back soon in Greece, meeting with government and local officials,” Jim explains, “to coordinate our efforts to help these children, born in or escaping to Greece. We will lead a group of our Foundation’s young global leaders to witness the situation on the ground and be a part of creating our response to this human tragedy.”

The Facebook invitation for the launch event may be found here. Contribution may be made here. Checks may be sent to the J. Luce Foundation, “Hellenic Fund,” 540 Main Street #418, New York, N.Y. 10044.

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The Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness is the communications platform of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation ( There are now more than 100 contributors around the world to this publication.

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