- Standards at some of the new sites are poor with essential services inadequate – dozens of arrivals seen immediately leaving
- The International Rescue Committee remains committed to working with the Greek authorities to improve conditions and services at refugee sites
- EU leaders must follow through on obligations to the thousands stranded in Greece under the EU-Turkey deal
New York, NY, May 26, 2016 — As the evacuation of the informal refugee site at Idomeni enters its third day the International Rescue Committee expressed concerns about the conditions at some of the new sites to which refugees are being transferred, including former warehouses in industrial zones. The IRC called for immediate action to improve standards, and expressed its willingness to work with the Greek government to identify more viable locations where refugees can be accommodated.
With 55,000 people currently stranded in Greece, there is significant pressure on the Greek Government and aid agencies to construct suitable sites. The IRC proposes working together to identify appropriate locations and ensuring facilities are satisfactory before refugees arrive.
This week, the IRC has seen dozens of refugees, who had just been transferred from Idomeni, leaving sites carrying all of their belongings. IRC teams are undertaking assessments at the new sites to recommend how amenities including showers and toilets can be installed. They have also brought supplies of drinking water and identified arrivals with specific needs, such as those with infants.
It is important that the new sites remain temporary solutions for refugees as they apply for asylum and relocation. The current asylum system is overburdened and under resourced. The fact that refugees continue to be stranded in Greece in such significant numbers two months after the EU-Turkey deal was put into effect speaks volumes to the lack of resources that have been put into the legal pathways already in place that would facilitate refugees’ passage into the rest of Europe.
Rowan Cody, International Rescue Committee’s Field Coordinator for Northern Greece, said: “Destination sites are currently not ready. The IRC will continue to work in coordination with the Greek government to improve conditions– all sites must meet humanitarian standards. This is not just about survival – sites must provide for refugees’ basic needs, as well as services to help people in dire need of protection.
“Human dignity must remain paramount. Increasing desperation is already leading to spikes of violence and an increase in mental health issues. How much more can these people bear?”
Panos Navrozidis, the IRC’s country director in Greece said: “We understand the pressure the Greek government is under to provide alternate living spaces for the thousands of refugees who continue to be stranded in Greece.
“The IRC is committed to working with the government to address these challenges and move as swiftly as possible to identity alternate and more suitable living environments for these refugees.”
Melanie Ward, The IRC’s associate director of advocacy said: “The EU-Turkey deal has only deepened the humanitarian crisis in Greece. Progress moving refugees onward to Europe, legally, has been too slow and vulnerable people have been left without hope in sub-standard camps. We are now facing the prospect of long-term refugee camps on European soil. Surely this is not the standard the EU wants to set for how to respond to the global refugee crisis.”
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.
More information about the IRC’s response to the Europe Refugee Crisis here.
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.