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Press Release

Idomeni evacuation: Refugees’ needs must be prioritized & humanitarian standards upheld

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As the Greek government begins the evacuation of the informal refugee site at Idomeni on Greece’s northern border, the International Rescue Committee calls for a peaceful evacuation and the provision of suitable alternative shelter. The IRC stressed that humanitarian standards for assistance and basic services must be met at the new sites.

The Greek government has opened multiple sites across Northern Greece to accommodate refugees – and buses are being provided to transport an estimated 8,500 refugees to these sites over the next seven days. On-site pre-registration for asylum will commence shortly.

The IRC, which deployed an emergency response team to Idomeni earlier this year, supports the government’s efforts to move people from the site but reiterates that the move must be done respectfully and with utmost concern for the refugees’ safety and protection.

In coordination with the Greek authorities, the IRC is continuing to scale up its activities across northern Greece to respond to the growing needs of some of the 46,000 people stranded on the mainland.

Panos Navrozidis, The International Rescue Committee’s Country Director in Greece said:

“It is imperative that the needs of refugees are prioritised throughout the evacuation of Idomeni. The majority of these people have fled conflict. They have come to Europe in search of safety and the chance of a better and more secure life. They are in dire need of international protection.

“Upholding the minimum standards for humanitarian assistance at all the new sites is absolutely vital, with sufficient shelter and services for life’s basic essentials.

“The provision of on-site pre-registration for asylum is an important development and a good incentive for refugees to leave Idomeni. The IRC hopes that similar resources will be put behind the relocation process.

“The current asylum process is inadequate and slow. Improved resources are urgently needed to provide refugees safe and legal routes to sanctuary in Europe and to reunite with family members. The extensive backlog means that many refugees will be waiting for months before their case is heard. This is not acceptable anywhere but particularly not in Europe. Greece must be given the support it needs to move the process along in an efficient and thorough way.”

About the IRC in Greece

The IRC has been responding to the Europe refugee crisis in Greece since July 2015 and deployed their emergency response team to Greece’s northern borders in March 2016. Leading the NGO coordination of water and sanitation programs the IRC played an instrumental role in completing the technical assessments and providing recommendations at the new sites in Northern Greece.

The IRC is active in four sites  - Cherso, Diavata, Giannitsa and Alexandria – and is planning to respond in two more. It is building and installing new shower and toilets facilities with hot running water, as well as constructing sewage systems, water points and laundry areas. Hygiene promotion - using a community led approach – helps to prevent the spread of infectious water borne diseases in the camp.

Protection activities have also started across multiple sites, providing psychological first aid and tailored one-to-one support to the most vulnerable refugees to help them begin to recover from the trauma they have experienced both in their country of origin and on their journey to Europe. The IRC teams also organise activities and games for children, and create safe spaces where women can take part in sessions including English lessons and jewelry making.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 26 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.