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UNHCR despairs over Europe's lack of solidarity in handling refugee crisis

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By Sarah Chappell
UNHCR despairs over Europe's lack of solidarity in handling refugee crisis

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, on Wednesday criticised the lack of solidarity across in Europe in addressing the migration crisis.

Grandi warned that “restrictions on the flow” of people within Europe would escalate the crisis – and could create a “bottleneck” in Greece.

“We are seeing on one hand increasing closures, and on the other hand no openings. Now, when you look at this flow (of refugees), the way it moves, the ability it has to find alternative ways of moving,” Grandi told reporters in Athens.

“If you block it and you don’t create well managed openings like relocation, like resettlement from Turkey, then the problem becomes very serious because it will fuel new rings, new (smuggling) networks.”

More than 102,547 migrants and refugees have reached Greece by sea since the start of 2016, according to International Organization for Migration figures as of 23 February.

Grandi also stressed that border restrictions implemented by western Balkan states contravene legislation on the protection of refugees.

“(These) restrictions probably go against even European rules and regulations and certainly against basic refugee protection laws,” he said.

Grandi, who began his five-year UNHCR mandate in January, was on a two-day visit to Greece this week, where he discussed the crisis with the government and met with groups of refugees.