By Caroline Haga, IFRC
Athens/Geneva, 1 March 2016 – Thousands of people are stranded in Greece without food, running water and basic supplies as the situation at the country’s northern border spirals into a struggle for survival for migrants desperate to find safety.
Up to 8,000 people are stranded in Idomeni on Greece’s northern border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Almost all are Syrian or Iraqi, and 40 per cent are children. Two overflow camps have been set up to cope with the increasing numbers of people, but they are without running water, sufficient food, baby food, toilets or hygiene items. Violence has also flared at the border crossing as desperation among migrants mounts.
“Greece cannot cope with this alone – food supplies have run out at the northern border and the situation is one of despair,” said Simon Missiri, director of Europe for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
At least 30,000 people have been stranded across Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Athens and Idomeni after Austria and countries along the Western Balkan route significantly reduced the number of people allowed to cross their borders last week. Afghans, who were previously able to move onward in search of asylum, are no longer permitted to travel beyond Greece.
Mr Missiri said: “The rest of Europe should not pull down the shutters and pretend this isn’t happening. At least 40 per cent of those trapped in Greece are children. For families who have already experienced more trauma and distress than most of us could ever imagine to be put in this position is appalling.”
The Greek authorities are working hard to meet basic needs but with no sign the situation will improve and numbers continuing to increase, the IFRC is gravely concerned about the welfare of those stranded. The Hellenic Red Cross is providing emergency supplies and medical care but more support is urgently needed as families travelling with elderly and disabled relatives, babies and young children are spending their tenth day without proper shelter.
Missiri said: “Our teams are on the shores of Lesvos, the streets of Athens and the border camps of the north and support thousands of people every day but the erratic policies of countries along the route are making it almost impossible for people to get what they need most – safety, and to be treated with dignity.”
The IFRC is running an emergency appeal for 13.1 million Swiss francs to support 200,000 people across Greece and is preparing to mobilize extra staff and stocks to support the Hellenic Red Cross as it responds across the country, as well as in the north.
Source: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies