Europe

UNHCR concerned over refugee conditions on Greek islands

  • A Syrian refugee man prepares chicken on a grill outside his shelter at the refugee camp of Ritsona about 86 kilometers (53 miles) north of Athens, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. Over 62,000 refugees and migrants are stranded in Greece after a series of Balkan border closures and an European Union deal with Turkey to stop migrant flows. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

    A Syrian refugee man prepares chicken on a grill outside his shelter at the refugee camp of Ritsona about 86 kilometers (53 miles) north of Athens, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. Over 62,000 refugees and migrants are stranded in Greece after a series of Balkan border closures and an European Union deal with Turkey to stop migrant flows. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)  (The Associated Press)

  • Refugee Moustafa Abdulrahman, 2, from Kobani, Syria, peeks out while standing outside his family's shelter at the refugee camp of Ritsona about 86 kilometers (53 miles) north of Athens, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. Over 62,000 refugees and migrants are stranded in Greece after a series of Balkan border closures and an European Union deal with Turkey to stop migrant flows. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

    Refugee Moustafa Abdulrahman, 2, from Kobani, Syria, peeks out while standing outside his family's shelter at the refugee camp of Ritsona about 86 kilometers (53 miles) north of Athens, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. Over 62,000 refugees and migrants are stranded in Greece after a series of Balkan border closures and an European Union deal with Turkey to stop migrant flows. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)  (The Associated Press)

  • An Afghan refugee child stands against a wall at the refugee camp of Oinofyta about 58 kilometers (36 miles) north of Athens, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. Over 62,000 refugees and migrants are stranded in Greece after a series of Balkan border closures and an European Union deal with Turkey to stop migrant flows. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

    An Afghan refugee child stands against a wall at the refugee camp of Oinofyta about 58 kilometers (36 miles) north of Athens, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. Over 62,000 refugees and migrants are stranded in Greece after a series of Balkan border closures and an European Union deal with Turkey to stop migrant flows. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)  (The Associated Press)

The United Nations refugee agency is urging Greek authorities to quickly move asylum-seekers to the mainland from overcrowded facilities on Greek islands, saying conditions remain bad and expressing concern over a predicted cold weather snap.

UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said in Geneva Friday that conditions at many sites "remain very poor" despite improvement efforts.

More than 15,500 migrants or refugees are stuck on Greek islands. Under a European Union-Turkey deal to reduce migration into Europe, those arriving on islands after March are held and face being returned to Turkey unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece.

Edwards noted that only vulnerable asylum-seekers or those who have completed the registration process could be transferred to the mainland, and delays in registration or identifying vulnerable cases "contributed to serious overcrowding."