Oxfam's humanitarian response in Greece

Oxfam staff distribute winter clothes and blankets to people living in reception facilities in north-western Greece.
Oxfam staff distribute winter clothes and blankets to people living in reception facilities in north-western Greece.

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The situation

Since January 2015 more than 1 million women and men fleeing war, persecution, natural disasters and poverty entered or passed through Greece in search of safety and a better life in Europe.

During the latter part of 2015 and early 2016, selective and arbitrary admission policies were put in place by various European countries which eventually closed their borders to people trying to leave Greece. The closing of  Greece's northern border and the EU-Turkey deal have resulted in tens of thousands of people stranded in Greece. According to the Greek Government, there are approximately 60,000 people currently stuck in limbo in makeshift camps and in abandoned buildings across the country, and in reception facilities on the Greek islands. 

Substandard living conditions and lack of adequate food, medical care and information have heightened people's anxiety, depression and uncertainty. The Greek government, still dealing with the effects of an economic crisis, is struggling to deliver the protection, services and shelter needed.
 
With little information about their rights, legal options, and how long it will take for them to be able to apply for asylum in Greece and access other legal options for reaching family elsewhere, people are turning to smugglers to move north. 

The British music group `The Editors` visited the reception center of Konitsa, where Oxfam works.The British music group `The Editors` visited the reception center of Konitsa, where Oxfam works.

Oxfam’s Response 

We started our operations in Lesbos in October 2015 as the humanitarian situation for people arriving irregularly from Turkey rapidly worsened, providing clean water, sanitation, food and non-food items. We are currently providing humanitarian assistance in Athens, Lesbos and the Epirus region of North-West Greece. In detail:

Lesbos: Between October 2015 and July 2016, we responded to the urgent needs of people arriving by sea in both the Moria and Kara Tepe reception centers, by providing food and essential non-food items and building toilet and shower facilities to ensure safe and dignified access to water, sanitation and hygiene for women and men.  

Epirus: We are currently working in five sites in the northwestern region of Greece including Konitsa, Katsikas, Doliana, Filippiada and Tsepelovo where we provide safe and friendly spaces to girls and children, psychosocial support, information and legal support so people can understand the legal options available to them, including asylum. We are also building and maintaining toilet and shower facilities; improving infrastructure in sites as winter approaches; providing food in situations where the Greek Government is unable to; and distributing essential non-food items like soap, blankets, clothing and shoes. 

Athens: Our advocacy, influencing and coordination team is working in the capital to address concerns around protection issues and provision of safe and dignified living conditions. We are working with others to mainstream gender in the response, as well as advocating on asylum procedures and or increased information to be provided to asylum seekers on registration. 

Read our blog: How a smartphone connects people stranded in Greece to safety, information and family

Oxfam's campaigning work

We are calling for women, men, girls and boys not to be hosted in tented sites but to be moved into proper accommodation - and certainly never to be held in detention centers.  

We also call on the EU and Greek Government to improve registration and asylum processes so they are fair, efficient, and transparent; ensure people can quickly access the legal options available to them including family reunification and relocation; receive clear information about their rights; access free legal aid and interpretation; and guarantee that refugee status is quickly determined.  

We work with others as part of our humanitarian responses and are keen to learn from and support the work of Greek NGOs, such as Arsis, the Greek Council for Refugees, the Greek Section of Amnesty International and Action Aid Greece. Where possible, we are open to working with local partners, volunteer groups and others to ensure that the humanitarian response in Greece meets the needs of migrants and the host communities alike.


Help us save lives, donate now

We urgently need your help to reach more families around the world who have been forced to flee their homes. From people escaping conflict in Syria to those making treacherous journeys to Europe, stranded in inadequate conditions in Greece and arriving with nothing, help give life-saving support to refugees in the countries that need it most. Any donation amount in the currency of your choice will help us to respond to those in desperate need. 

Funding: Oxfam’s program is funded by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) as well as members of the public from around the world.