We launched “Help LHR Continue its Vital Programming in Greece” in early 2019 to provide vital support to forcibly displaced families and individuals seeking safety in Greece. Following several recent policy changes that have reduced assistance for refugees and asylum seekers, this population is in urgent need of essential services, including shelter, food, psychosocial support, and legal and medical aid.
Over the past three years, you have helped us raise more than $60,000 and we thank you! Your generous contributions have sustained our work through increasingly challenging times (if you are interested in learning more about recent developments impacting the lives of people seeking refuge in Greece, please read the section at the end of this report).
Here is a summary of what we achieved with your support since launching this project:
In Ritsona, Greece’s largest refugee camp, we continued offering recreational activities (including sports, arts and crafts, music workshops and more) for children and youth. During the Covid-19 pandemic, these activities assumed even greater importance as children had little to no access to school due to COVID-19 measures, over capacity classrooms, and transportation issues. In our safe, inviting spaces, children and youth have the opportunity to be themselves, make friends across cultural and linguistic divides, pursue their creative or athletic passions, and build their skills, including learning English.
Since January 2019, we have welcomed a weekly average of 112 children between the ages 3 and 4 years into our informal daycare centre, where they can play, make friends, learn techniques to cope with their emotions, and develop their skills. Through our Sports programme, school-aged children played games designed to instil values of equality and respect for others, and also learnt healthy hygiene habits such as hand-washing and teeth-brushing. They also practiced football, volleyball, and more! In our youth and community centre, a monthly average of 193 residents aged 15 and up have passed through our centre to drink tea, learn a new song on the guitar, or play a game of chess. We also continued to invest in our Community Volunteers - refugees and asylum seekers living in Ritsona Camp who chose to contribute to our programmes for children – through training and capacity building workshops.
In Athens, our emergency response team answered a growing number of requests for help from people living in precarious conditions. Since launching this programme in December 2020, we have supported over 4,800 people, including 1,706 children, of whom 28 were unaccompanied by parents or guardians. We assessed their needs, booked medical appointments, provided guidance on navigating the asylum process and accessing social services, and referred people to providers of legal and housing support. We have also distributed 366 food baskets, more than 60 supermarket vouchers, and 759 baby supplies (including diapers and baby formula), and 15,194 other essential hygiene items (such as soap, toothbrushes, sanitary towels etc.) as well as 541 items of warm winter clothing to families in vulnerable situations.
Although we have reached our funding goal for this project, our work in Greece continues as refugees and asylum seekers here face greater challenges than ever. We are responding to a growing number of requests for basic support services, most notably for housing, food, legal and medical aid, and psychological support.
We hope that you will continue to support us by contributing to our other project on GlobalGiving. Together, we can continue making a difference!
Thank you sincerely for standing in solidarity with people fleeing conflict, disaster and persecution. We are grateful to count you among our loyal supporters.
Overview of recent changes affecting refugees and asylum seekers in Greece:
New arrivals on the mainland, Crete and Rhodes currently have no way to register their asylum claim, leaving thousands of people with few avenues to access legal protection, medical support, housing or food. Gates and surveillance technologies are being installed around walled-off camps, the final step in creating closed, prison-like camps across Greece that will restrict residents’ freedom of movement. The amount of cash assistance that certain categories of asylum seekers receive every month has also been reduced to €75 (meanwhile most receive zero). Food insecurity continues to be a devastating issue for residents of Ritsona - in February 2,600 people resided in Ritsona, of whom 1,600 were considered “ineligible” for food distributions. Government accommodations, including the ESTIA II programme which housed vulnerable asylum seekers, has been reduced and will be phased out by the end of this year. In January, the worst snowstorm in 14 years hit the Athens metro area, leaving thousands of people living on the streets and in low-quality housing in need of emergency warm shelter, winter clothes and blankets. In Ritsona, the snowstorm left the entire camp without electricity and potable water for some days.
These obstacles exacerbate the long-standing, perennial struggles that thousands of forcibly displaced people across Greece were already facing. Those attempting to cross Greece’s land and sea borders continue to be met with violence, intimidation tactics and illegal pushbacks. Turkey has been designated a “safe third country” by the Greek authorities for asylum seekers from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Bangladesh and Pakistan, meaning applicants from these countries face immediate rejections and the risk of deportation. Those in Athens continue to face uncertainty, poor housing, and limited job opportunities, whilst those in Ritsona Camp face waiting times of up to three years on asylum claims.