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Press Release

Refugees prevented from crossing Greece’s northern borders at increased risk, finds IRC

Last updated 
  • Sanitation conditions at Idomeni rapidly deteriorating. Resources to respond are overstretched
  • IRC concerned about the safety and protection of vulnerable groups. Launches Emergency Response Team for immediate response

Sanitation and protection are two key needs for the refugees currently in Idomeni, hoping to cross Greece’s northern border. These are the findings of an International Rescue Committee rapid assessment of needs at Idomeni, where over 13,000 refugees are currently caught in limbo as a result of recent, unilateral border closures along the route to inland Europe.

Idomeni, the transit site on the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is overwhelmed. There is insufficient safe accommodation for the increasing numbers of refugees and limited protection monitoring and identification of vulnerable cases. At a time like this, when dignity and care must be prioritized, due to the increased number of arrivals to the border, existing WASH facilities are stretched beyond capacity and there is a particular need for increased numbers of water points, showers, and toilets. Cleaners are also not able to keep up with the amount of litter being generated. Feminine supplies, as well as other general hygiene items are in short supply. Heating too is limited with many of the refugees lighting their own fires to keep themselves and their families warm. These fires are often lit in close proximity to tents, with no firefighting mechanisms in sight, thus posing additional safety challenges.

When it comes to protection needs, women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities are often the most vulnerable in a humanitarian crisis, and although there are protection actors on the ground doing all they can to meet the needs of those at the site, they are overstretched by the quickly increasing and stationary number of arrivals. There are no women’s safe spaces, something that is critical in an emergency - spaces for women and girls to go to seek solace, care and support, and, if they themselves feel empowered to do so, seek counselling and, at a minimum, psychological first aid.

In addition, the lighting is either insufficient or non-existent in tented areas and at the latrines. Women and girls are most vulnerable to abuse in all its forms when the sun sets.

In the short term, the IRC’s emergency response team is on the ground and focused on addressing immediate needs – water, sanitation and protection. The team is also procuring dignity kits to meet the hygiene needs of women and girls. The IRC’s emergency response protection coordinator is also in Idomeni and working with partners to ensure that the protection needs of women and girls and all those at Idomeni are urgently addressed.

The IRC’s Greece country director, Panos Navrozidis said: "Whatever the outcome of the EU summit on the refugee crisis, it is imperative that refugees are treated with dignity and respect, and that their basic needs are met no matter where they are and no matter what their circumstances. The IRC is committing to doing just that, both on the island of Lesvos, and along Greece’s northern borders."

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.