Extreme weather threatens lives of stranded migrants in Europe

Migrants in Europe are suffering under an exceptionally brutal winter in camps that were not designed for cold weather.

The severe weather and temperatures, as low as -30°C, caused by an Arctic blast last weekend has affected much of central, southern and eastern Europe including Greece and Turkey. Some parts of Greece have seen more than a metre of snow and temperatures as low as -18°C.

Since the Balkan route was closed in March of last year, about 60,000 migrants find themselves trapped in Greece, living in abandoned factories and warehouses, and crowded in unheated tent camps.

About 4,500 people live at the Moira camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, where the unusual weather has been harsh on thousands of refugees living in outdoor tents due to a shortage of adequate accommodation. Some of the UNHCR tents, intended to be temporary, have collapsed under the weight of the snow, and cases of hypothermia have been reported, with at least one Afghan man being reported dead due to the weather.

In southern Germany on Sunday, police discovered 19 nearly dead migrants suffering from hypothermia. The smuggler had abandoned them on a roadside inside the cargo area of a truck for hours when temperatures plummeted to -20° C.

In Bulgaria, border police have reported finding the bodies of two Iraqi men and a Somali woman who died from cold in the mountains near Turkey.

In Serbia, more than 7,500 migrants, who are unable to pass the sealed border, are stranded without warm shelter as the country declares extreme weather emergencies in at least 11 municipalities. About 1,500 migrants are sheltering in abandoned warehouses in the capital, Belgrade, where temperatures dropped to -15 °C on Monday, and many of them have already fallen ill as they struggle under the extreme cold weather.