Refugees freezing to death in Europe as harsh winter sets in

Extreme weather conditions in Europe are starting to take their toll on refugees who are still staying outside of migrant camps, with many of them becoming more vulnerable to sickness and some freezing to death.

(REUTERS/Petros Tsamakis/INTIMEnews)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

In Serbia, where temperatures have dropped to below 30 degrees Celsius, refugees are vulnerable to life-threatening conditions including a flu epidemic. To make the situation more difficult, agencies are having more difficulties securing hot and nutritious food, proper shelter and heating for them, Christian Aid reports.

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According to Marija Vranesevic, the programme manager at Philanthropy, Christian Aid's Serbian partner, most of the refugees are already staying in heated establishments. However, those who are still staying outside the camps are vulnerable to the extreme winter conditions, which have added to the feelings of anxiety and depression among the refugees.

Just recently, two Iraqi men in Bulgaria died after 48 hours of walking through the snow without food and water. An Afghan refugee also fell dead in Greece, where the cold has dropped to minus 14 degrees Celsius.

"It's wholly unacceptable that refugees are freezing to death, while European leaders turn a blind eye to the suffering of people on their doorsteps," said Christian Aid's head of Advocacy, Tom Viita. "European countries last year pledged to relocate 66,000 refugees from Greece. Yet almost a year on, only twenty per cent of them have been relocated. Across Europe the political will to act is falling desperately short of the human need."

Earlier this week, AFP said the deep freeze across Europe has claimed more than 60 lives in Poland, Romania and the Balkans in the last few days. In Warsaw, the death toll due to hypothermia has risen to 71 since November.

Because of the situation, police have urged people to extend a helping hand to the homeless and other people vulnerable to the harsh weather conditions. Local authorities have also advised both the kids and the elderly to stay indoors.

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