World Refugee Day 2020 : UNHCR marks the day with ''every action counts'' theme.

Athens/Aden : Conflict, hunger and economic upheaval had displaced nearly 80 million people worldwide, half of them children, by the end of 2019, nearly twice as many as a decade ago, says the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR].

The world body marked this year's World Refugee Day with the message that ''every action counts'' , as it faces the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and record number of people forced from their homes by war and extreme weather.

Refugees Protest in Athens

Around 2,000 people gathered across central Athens on Saturday to mark World Refugee Day and protest the Greek government's policies for migrants.

Members of anti-racist groups, joined the refugees from migrant camps, marched holding banners reading ''No refugee homeless'', persecuted, jailed'' and chanting slogans against evictions of refugees from temporary accommodation apartments.

Thousands face homelessness in the country's refugee relocation scheme as Greek authorities plan to move more than 11,000 people to make room for other asylum seekers currently living in dismal  island camps.

Refugees used to be able to keep their accommodations for up to six months after receiving protected status.

The new conservative government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has reduced this period to just a month.

The government insists that it is doing everything necessary ''to assure a smooth transition for those who leave their lodgings''.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR] has voiced its concern, however, stressing that many of the refugees do not have effective access to social benefits and support..

Disproportionate Burden

In a message for World Refugee Day, the Ministry for Migration and Asylum said Greece has found itself ''at the centre of the migration crisis bearing a disproportionate burden''.

''The country is safeguarding the rights of those who are really persecuted and operates as a shield of solidarity in the eastern Mediterranean,'' it said.

Government officials have repeatedly said Greece must become a less attractive destination for asylum seekers.

The continued presence of more than 32,000 asylum seekers on the islands - over five times the intended capacity of shelters there - has caused major friction with local communities who demand their immediate removal.

An operation in February to build new camps on the islands of Lesbos and Chios had to be abandoned due to violent protests.

Rights groups have repeatedly criticised unhygienic and unsafe living conditions in existing camps.

Greece is also accused of illegal pushbacks by its forces as its sea and land borders, which according to reports had increased since March.

Greece has repeatedly denied using illegal tactics to guard its borders, and has in turn accused Turkey of sending patrol boats into its waters. 

UNHCR said that although around 3,000 asylum seekers arrived in Greece by land and sea since the start of March, the figure was much lower than over previous months.

African refugees in Yemen

Despite six years of war and hardship in Yemen, Somali refugee Bader Hassan had stuck it out hoping for a better life than in his homeland.

But the coronavirus pandemic has pushed his precarious existence to the edge, and now he wants out.

''Me, my wife and my son want to live in a good place, like other people,'' the Somali born 32-year old said in the capital Sanaa...[Agencies]


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