( UN ) - The United Nations refugee agency today called on the Greek authorities to allow the urgent disembarkation and grant access to the asylum system for 16 stowaways, apparently from Turkey, found nearly a week ago on a cargo ship docked in the port of Piraeus, near Athens.
"This group should have access to the asylum procedure in Greece and not be turned away as this could result in a direct or indirect refoulement - return to a country where they claim to feel threatened," UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva. "We are also concerned that there are five minors amongst this group and two people with serious health problems."
The stowaways apparently boarded the Antigua-flagged 'RITA' cargo vessel in Turkey. It arrived in Piraeus on 7 March. UNHCR and the Greek Refugee Council had access to the stowaways on Friday and most expressed their wish to claim asylum. Those claims were delivered yesterday to the relevant Greek authorities but as yet there has been no response.
"They should be disembarked as soon as possible so as not to prolong their ordeal," Ms. Pagonis said. "We hope that a solution can be found shortly that complies with humanitarian and international protection principles and are ready to help the Greek authorities in any appropriate way."