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Refugees Stranded as Snow, Freezing Temps Hit Greek Isles

IN PICTURES: 60,000 refugees and migrants remain trapped in Greece as refugee camps face sub-zero temperatures.

A mid-winter ice spell and snowstorms have gripped central and southeastern Europe for days while parts of Greece have been covered in rare snow with temperatures dipping to -20 degrees Celsius this week. Snow also fell in Athens on Tuesday.

More than 60,000 refugees and migrants have been trapped in Greece since Balkan countries along the main, northward overland route to wealthy western Europe sealed their borders last March. Most now live in overcrowded camps across Greece in abandoned factories or warehouses, or in tents which lack insulation or heating.

"Cold, it's very cold for children - it's not like Syria," said Rostam, a 34-year-old Syrian Kurd who has been living in a camp near the village of Ritsona in eastern Greece near Athens for 10 months with his wife and three young children.

Humanitarian aid organizations, including the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, have pressed Greece to quickly transfer those on freezing, snowbound Aegean islands to the mainland or other European countries.

Conditions were considerably worse on the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos, where more than 5,000 asylum seekers have been waiting for months for their applications to be processed.

Scores of summer tents weighed down by thick snow resembled igloos after several days of icy weather on the island. On Tuesday, the government said it was sending a naval ship to Lesbos to accommodate migrants. It was also scrambling to transfer others to hotels.

"It's normal, we're used to living like this," said a 25-year-old Syrian who gave his name as Ahmad, one of the first to arrive in the Ritsona camp. "This is not one day or two days, this is 10 months."

teleSUR takes a look at the increasingly dire conditions faced by those uprooted by imperialist wars and policies abroad.

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Snow lays next to tents provided by the UNHCR at the refugee camp of Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos, Jan. 10, 2017.
Snow lays next to tents provided by the UNHCR at the refugee camp of Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos, Jan. 10, 2017. Photo:Reuters
A stranded Syrian refugee braves a snowstorm at a refugee camp north of Athens, Greece Jan. 10, 2017.
A stranded Syrian refugee braves a snowstorm at a refugee camp north of Athens, Greece Jan. 10, 2017. Photo:Reuters
A stranded Syrian refugee braves a snowstorm at a refugee camp north of Athens, Greece, Jan. 10, 2017.
A stranded Syrian refugee braves a snowstorm at a refugee camp north of Athens, Greece, Jan. 10, 2017. Photo:Reuters
A stranded Syrian refugee child tries to move his bicycle during a snowstorm at a refugee camp north of Athens, Greece, Jan. 10, 2017.
A stranded Syrian refugee child tries to move his bicycle during a snowstorm at a refugee camp north of Athens, Greece, Jan. 10, 2017. Photo:Reuters
Stranded Syrian refugees carry their children through a snow storm at a refugee camp north of Athens, Greece, Jan. 10, 2017.
Stranded Syrian refugees carry their children through a snow storm at a refugee camp north of Athens, Greece, Jan. 10, 2017. Photo:Reuters
A migrant is covered with a plastic cover to protect from low temperatures as snow lays next to tents provided by the UNHCR at the refugee camp of Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos, January, 10, 2017.
A migrant is covered with a plastic cover to protect from low temperatures as snow lays next to tents provided by the UNHCR at the refugee camp of Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos, January, 10, 2017. Photo:Reuters
A stranded Syrian refugee boy walks through a snow storm at a refugee camp north of Athens, Greece, Jan. 10, 2017.
A stranded Syrian refugee boy walks through a snow storm at a refugee camp north of Athens, Greece, Jan. 10, 2017. Photo:Reuters
Clothes that belong to stranded refugees are covered with snow as they hang on a fence during a show storm at a refugee camp north of Athens, Greece, Jan. 10, 2017.
Clothes that belong to stranded refugees are covered with snow as they hang on a fence during a show storm at a refugee camp north of Athens, Greece, Jan. 10, 2017. Photo:Reuters
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