Greece has seen a steady increase in the number of refugees crossing the Evros River along the border with Turkey this year, creating new humanitarian challenges as arrivals by sea continue.
The estimated number of refugees arriving across the land border with Turkey between January and April, 5,500, approaches the total for all of 2017. Nearly 9,400 refugees have arrived by sea this year.
“As the number of refugees coming to Greece continues to rise, there is an urgent need to mobilise help for families with children and for children travelling alone,” said George Protopapas, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages Greece. “People are desperate to find shelter because reception and identification centres near the Evros River and refugee facilities in Northern Greece are already unable to accept more people. Many are in urgent need of bedding, clothing, shoes, nappies, baby formula, and basic personal hygiene items. There is also an ongoing need for essential supplies on the island of Lesvos.”
With refugee centres struggling to accommodate new arrivals, SOS Children’s Villages Greece has begun to collect supplies for children and families arriving by land and sea.
“SOS Children’s Villages Greece, together with local donors and supporters, is already mobilising help for children travelling alone, along with families and single parents with children. But further support is needed so we can be ready to help children and families on the move if the current situation continues,” Mr Protopapas said.
SOS Children’s Villages Greece is organising the collection of clothing and shoes, baby formula and nappies, as well as bed linens for refugee children and families. There is also an immediate need for blankets and hygiene kits - toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, female hygiene products and toilet supplies - for distribution to refugees in Northern Turkey and in Lesvos.
“Addressing the basic needs of people arriving in Greece, and receiving them with dignity, is not an impossible endeavour in a European Union country that has experienced migration for years,” Mr Protopapas said. “But it does require all actors involved to meet their responsibilities."
"As we prepare to offer our help, we urgently call on the Greek and European authorities to prioritise the provision of care, protection and shelter for children and families as the authorities work to address the broader needs of refugees. If we are to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in northern Greece, we need to learn from the mistakes of the past and take action now. I wish for Greece and Europe not to relive the difficult days of 2015.”
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Photo: Rising numbers of refugees have crossed into Northern Greece from Turkey. “There is an urgent need to mobilise help for families with children and for children travelling alone,” says George Protopapas, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages Greece. Photo by Giorgos Moutafis