Greece: Clearing Idomeni camp doesn’t end refugees’ waiting limbo

(Geneva/Athens) CARE International 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. 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,” says Thomas Rottland, CARE’s team leader in Greece.

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 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.


CARE has spokespeople available in Greece, contact:

Darcy Knoll
Communications Specialist | CARE Canada | 1.613.228.5641

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