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Refugees stranded in Greece live in appalling conditions, Amnesty International says

ASSOCIATED PRESS
ATHENS, Greece
Published
Children from Iraq stand behind the fence as a policewoman stands guard at Amygdaleza pre-departure center for refugees and migrants who are asking to return home, in Athens, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016 (AP Photo) Children from Iraq stand behind the fence as a policewoman stands guard at Amygdaleza pre-departure center for refugees and migrants who are asking to return home, in Athens, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016 (AP Photo)

Most of the roughly 60,000 refugees and other migrants stranded in Greece are living in "appalling conditions" and face "immense and avoidable suffering," rights group Amnesty International said in a report Thursday slamming Europe's response to the refugee crisis.

The group criticized Europe for failing to fulfill commitments to relocate refugees from the countries they entered, saying only 6 percent — about 4,000 people — of the 66,400 relocations promised over two years have taken place.

"Our latest research has found that two years into the refugee crisis in Greece, refugees and asylum-seekers in Greece are ... living in fear and uncertainty for the future," Giorgos Kosmopoulos, an Amnesty International researcher on refugees and migrants' rights, said. "The European Union, a bloc of 500 million people, cannot offer dignified conditions to a number of people that is relatively small."

Amnesty called on Greece to improve conditions and on European countries to speed up the relocation process, saying it would take 18 years at the current rate to fulfill their existing pledges.

After more than a million refugees and migrants reached European countries last year, the EU reached an agreement with Turkey in March to limit the flow.

Under the deal, people arriving on Greek islands from the Turkish coast face deportation back to Turkey unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece.

The agreement, combined with Balkan border closures, has led to a dramatic fall in the number of people reaching Greece.

Government figures show 92 people arrived on Greek islands in a 24-hour period Wednesday and Thursday, compared to the thousands who were arriving each day at this time last year.

However, the border closures also have trapped tens of thousands of people in Greece. With asylum applications taking months to process, the rate of return to Turkey is low.

Other European countries, meanwhile, have failed to take in the numbers of refugees they had committed to accept.

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