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UNHCR Proposes Plan to Address Europe's Refugee Crisis

  • Lisa Schlein

Stranded in the northern Greek border station of Idomeni for 15 days, Syrian refugees sit next to a fire as they wait to be allowed to cross to Macedonia, March 5, 2016.

Stranded in the northern Greek border station of Idomeni for 15 days, Syrian refugees sit next to a fire as they wait to be allowed to cross to Macedonia, March 5, 2016.

The U.N. refugee agency reports that the refugee situation in Greece is rapidly deteriorating, with about 30,000 people living under miserable conditions, but it's proposing a plan to help resolve the crisis.

The proposal from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees comes ahead of a European Union ministerial meeting with Turkey in Brussels next week.

The UNHCR says only a trickle of people are being allowed to cross into Macedonia, leaving thousands of refugees stranded on the Greek side of the border, amid mounting tensions and inadequate accommodations.

Agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming says this situation could be largely resolved if European nations would implement a plan they agreed to last year for the fair and equitable relocation of refugees.

The EU had agreed to fairly distribute 160,000 refugees among its 28 members. Fleming says most of the countries are unwilling to face up to their responsibilities, as only 603 people have been relocated.

“It is not fair right now," she said. "It is not fair that Greece and Italy have to take on all of the people who are arriving and all that that entails. And it is not fair that Austria, Germany and Sweden, on behalf of all of Europe, have to take the burden of all the refugees who are arriving. That has to stop.”

A migrant arranges a blanket among tents at a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants at the Greek-Macedonian border, near the village of Idomeni, Greece, March 5, 2016.

A migrant arranges a blanket among tents at a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants at the Greek-Macedonian border, near the village of Idomeni, Greece, March 5, 2016.

The UNHCR's six-part plan to manage and stabilize the refugee situation calls for relocating asylum-seekers from Greece and Italy and, at the same time, returning individuals who do not qualify as refugees to their home countries.

Another recommendation is to make available safer, legal ways for refugees to travel to Europe under managed programs, such as humanitarian admission programs and family reunification efforts.

The UNHCR says these and other suggestions in the plan can work if European countries come together in solidarity and assume their obligations under international law to provide protection and support to people fleeing conflict and persecution.

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