Clearing Idomeni Camp Doesn't End Refugees’ Waiting Limbo

Clearing Idomeni Camp Doesn't End Refugees’ Waiting Limbo

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Posted
5/25/16

EU member states must urgently meet their own commitments and facilitate relocation of refugees

ATHENS/ATLANTA (May 25, 2016) — CARE, the global poverty-fighting organization, and its partner organization SolidarityNow ask EU member states to urgently act on their own commitments to relocate refugees from Greece to other countries in the European Union.

 “The EU needs to act decisively and establish an effective process to quickly relocate 46,000 people,” says Thomas Rottland, CARE’s team leader in Greece. “This is the only long-term solution to alleviate the urgent humanitarian situation. Clearing informal camps such as Idomeni doesn’t help to end refugees’ waiting limbo.”

The EU’s target of relocating at least 20,000 people by mid-May has not been met, although it estimates that between 35,000 and 40,000 persons in Greece are eligible for relocation. Since November, only 979 have been transferred to other EU member states. Most refugees could not even start their relocation or family reunification process while in Greece. They have to call a hotline via Skype, but with a narrow timeframe it becomes quickly overwhelmed with the number of calls. In fact, the hotlines can only take around 300 calls per week.

 “Refugees tell us that making an appointment is like winning the lottery,” says CARE’s Rottland.“The people here have lived through years of war and had to leave everything behind.”

Many refugees have told CARE and SolidarityNow that they had stayed in one of the official camps before and do not want to go back to these isolated locations.

“They described the situation in these camps as being worse than in Idomeni. It is not acceptable that refugees have to wait in yet another camp fearing that the world is forgetting their plight,” says Rottland.

On Tuesday, Greek police started to move approximately 8,000 migrants and refugees stranded in the make-shift camp of Idomeni on the sealed Northern border with Macedonia to facilities run by the state.

Most of the refugees in Greece, the majority of them women and children, were on their way to Western Europe to reunite with their families. They now live in over 35 overcrowded accommodation sites, without proper access to sanitary facilities, quality food and protection.

“This crisis is absolutely avoidable. Its solution is in the hands of European governments. They have the means and the expertise to provide Greece with the support it has requested. Additional capacity from European governments is urgently needed to improve the humanitarian situation. Most importantly, refugees need to be able to start their requests for relocation and family reunification,” says Epaminondas Farmakis, Managing Director of SolidarityNow.  

“Ultimately, the international community needs to address the root causes of the refugee influx, such as the crises in Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq. Unfortunately, at the World Humanitarian Summit, world leaders did not agree on concrete actions to help end those conflicts, which endanger the lives of millions of people and have caused them to flee terror and desperation,” says Farmakis.

CARE and its partner organization Solidarity Now have reached around 2,200 refugees with cash assistance to meet their most immediate needs in Greece. CARE is providing free internet and telephone charging services in some of the camps. In the coming months, CARE is planning to support refugees in Greece with cash assistance, hygiene kits, water and sanitation facilities.

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Media Contacts: Nicole Harris, nharris@care.org, 404-979-9503 (office), 404-735-0871 (mobile)

About CARE: Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE places special focus on working alongside poor girls and women because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. Last year CARE worked in 90 countries and reached more than 72 million people around the world. To learn more, visit www.care.org.

SolidarityNow  is a network of people and organizations established in Greece in 2013 by the initiative of the Open Society Foundations, aiming to help the populations most affected by the financial and humanitarian crises. Currently, in order to support the relocation program of the asylum seekers and of persons who are eligible to relocate, SolidarityNow creates 600 temporary accommodation places in Athens, and 100 in Thessaloniki and the wider regions of the two cities, through a program supported by the UNHCR and funded by the EU, entitled SolidarityNow Hosting Scheme Project. In addition, SolidarityNow partners with over 70 organizations and supports civil society organizations and public entities operating in Greece, to implement programs. Its main donors include: UNHCR, UNICEF, CARE, the EEA Grants, the Norwegian Embassy in Athens and others. SolidarityNow operates two centers in Athens and Thessaloniki, where vulnerable population groups can receive free medical, legal, etc. aid. From early 2015 to date, it has allocated 15 million euros for projects related to humanitarian support in Greece.

 

Informal camp at the port of Piraeus, where around 2,500 people are currently living in overcrowde​d tents, with insufficie​nt sanitary facilities and a complete lack of privacy.  (Photo: CARE/Johan​na Mitscherli​ch)

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