Do people still ask you if the refugee crisis in Greece is still happening? Its something we often get asked, and people can be forgiven for asking since the desperate situation seems to have been long forgotten by our media.
The number of refugees and asylum seekers in Greece has risen steadily this year and is now estimated to be at well over 70,000. Many of these people are merely surviving in deplorable conditions in camps. The 5 hotspot camps on the islands remain critically over populated, and many gaps in care remain. There are many emergency cases such as the 200 or so unaccompanied minors waiting for accommodation in Athens, and many people continue to suffer deep psychological issues without adequate and necessary support.
On the mainland, the government has started to evict people who have been granted asylum from their accommodation, and is removing their cash card assistance. Why? Possibly to make room for transfers from the islands. Where will they go and what will they do? We don’t know, but there is a need to integrate people and help make them self sufficient which we are trying to respond to.
So far this year, it’s reported that around 14,000 people have attempted to journey to the Greek islands in flimsy rubber boats from Turkey. Of these, around 5000 have reportedly reached the Greek islands, whilst the remainder were intercepted by the Turkish coastguards and were returned to Turkey.
March this year also sadly saw a number of fatalities. On the 7th March, 1 man and 2 children died after their boat sank off Samos, on the 10th March the body of a child washed up on a beach in Lesbos. On the 26th March at least 4 people- a baby and 3 women died when their boat heading for Lesbos sank off the coast of Turkey, and on the 28th March- 2 people were reported missing after their boat crashed into rocks on the coast of Chios.
Our Team have spent some time in Athens and the islands this year (self funded) fostering the great relationships we have with the organisations we work with, building new relationships, understanding the situation more clearly, and working on the ground. It’s important to us that we stay well connected and up to date with the situation to help us to respond to needs most efficiently.
Many of the organisations we work with identify with the trend of fundraising becoming more challenging, but united in our mission, we remain dedicated in solidarity to make a difference.
We recognise the need to help people rebuild their lives and livelihoods in Greece, and have responded to this as much as we have been financially able to. Our friends at Zaatar who run the Orange House were given the opportunity to turn a space in the centre of Athens into a shop. We helped to fund the work needed to make this possible, and the shop has been up and running successfully for a few months. The gifts, clothing, art and jewellery on sale is all made by people in the refugee community giving them a purpose, and the space is also run by a member of the refugee community.
FORGE for humanity is a small NGO whose focus is on providing a vast array of support to the often overlooked single male population. Their resident translator is from the refugee community and speaks a number of languages catering for over 80% of their beneficiaries. We have committed to fund his work on an ongoing monthly basis.
In addition, we have committed to fund a stipend for a young man from the refugee community who dedicates much of his time to support the work of Medical Volunteers in Athens providing critical outreach care.
These regular commitments can sometimes be challenging for us to sustain as we don’t always know how much income we can generate month to month. You can help by signing up to make a monthly contribution via our secure donate platform.
How else we’ve made a difference so far this year
In collaboration with Cribs International, we have been sponsoring the private monthly rent for a vulnerable Syrian family in Athens for some time now. Earlier this year, they were finally relocated to Germany, and we helped to fund their flights. A vulnerable Afghan family have since moved into the property. The couple have 3 boys- an 8 month old, 5 year old and 10 year old. The father was a mechanic in their homeland, and the family fled from Afghanistan due to the threat from the Taliban. They are dedicated to providing security, safety and education for their children and it’s been amazing to see their eldest boys Greek language blossom. We continue to fund their rent, and we were also pleased to cover a months rent for all 6 families in Cribs care earlier this year.
The Orange House recently moved location, and were grateful to us for funding the new 6 bunk beds for the centre. The wooden framed bunk beds from the previous location had fallen into disrepair, so the new metal frames ones we purchased will be more durable. In addition, we have just funded 3 months stationary supplies to support the Orange Houses comprehensive education program.
We were successful in applying for a grant from a trust fund, and the entire amount awarded was given to Samos Volunteers to help support their amazing work on Samos.
In addition, we continue to support ECHO100Plus on Leros with the provision of hygiene items which are distributed to the residents of the islands hotspot camp, and have provided a number of grants to the Greek Council For Refugees to help fund their work with emergency cases.
This handsome collection of 30 teddies were created in America by a lady called Margaret, who knitted the “skins”. She sent them flat to us in the UK where our 2 friends Toni and Rodanthi worked hard to stuff and complete them. We then took them to Greece where they were distributed in one of the children’s art workshops run by Kayra where we fund the food for the gathering. It was amazing to feel the buzz of the workshop that we were privileged to attend in March, and to see the joy that these gorgeous teddies bought to the children.
Thank you for powering us!
Aegean Solidarity Network Team UK remains entirely voluntarily run, so your donations have maximum positive impact. The aid and support we are able to offer is powered by your donations. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our work, either financially, by amplifying our message or by giving up your time. A special thanks to Bearwood Action For Refugees, Kings Heath Action For Refugees, East Hoathly and Halland Village of Sanctuary and St Peters Mission Group, whose constant fundraising efforts are pivotal to our work. You can support us by donating, purchasing from our unique clothing line, or by fundraising for your next event on Just Giving or Facebook.