Jamal and Asinat (2) at Depethe camp at Chios, Greece (open facility). Photo: Tiril Skarstein, NRC.

Interview with Jamal - fleeing with his wife and their child Asinat (2).
Planes were bombing our neighbourhood. One bomb hit our home and I had an injury in the stomach and I was taken to hospital were I had an operation. My wife was also hit in her shoulder. But luckily is was able to shield Asinat (2). It was during the previous Ramadan. We decided we need to get to safety in Europe. The travel has been very difficult, both to cross from Syria to Turkey and across the sea to get to Greece. We have been close to death. 

We escaped form the war, but here in Greece we were taken to a detention center. We have no rights here. We escaped the war, but for what? I have friend in Oslo and other parts of Europe and they tell me that their rights are respected - but here we have no rights and there´s no humanity.
I am afraid we will be sent back to Turkey. There is no life for us there. 
In Syria we would die quickly, here we are dying slowly. In Syria we would be killed in the war, here the despair is strangling us. 

See also video interview.
Read caption Jamal and his daughter Asinat (2) fled Syria and are now living in Depethe camp, Chios. Photo: NRC/Tiril Skarstein

Our country programme in Greece

Edited 03. Mar 2017
The situation in Greece changed dramatically in 2016. With the border closures and EU-Turkey statement the number of people entering Greece went down significantly from 2015. Yet, 62,328 are stranded, and arrival continue to the Greek islands (1,662 in December 2016). NRC is responding to emergency needs in the camps and settlements on the Greek mainland and the Island of Chios.


Total number of refugees
Internally displaced persons
Refugees from other countries
New refugees
Voluntary returns
Source: UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). Official figures updated at the beginning of 2016.

Humanitarian and political background

Record numbers of refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean at great peril to find safety in Europe. Between January to December 2016, 173,447 individuals reached Greece by sea, majority of whom are men. On March 20th 2016 the EU and Turkey signed an agreement an the influx steadily decreased.

NRC started operations in Greece in mid-October 2015.

A new wave of crisis

The majority of those making the deadly journey are fleeing conflict in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Anguish and despair, caused by the constant threat of violence as well as the lack of access to health services, jobs and education opportunities, push them to leave. In Turkey, where many seek refuge before leaving by boat, limited opportunities coupled with language barriers and continuous protection risks, particularly for certain nationalities, means many choose not to rebuild their lives there.

Crossing the choppy waves, often in rough weather, has led to a large number of tragic accidents, 146 and 51 missing in 2016. The odds are against them, but people still make the desperate choice. They arrive cold, wet and traumatised. Some are on the brink of death, others separated from their families.

A transit, not destination

The refugees, migrants and asylum seekers who arrive in Greece look north. The traditional route from Greece, up until March 2016, continued through the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria.

Closure of borders

Following the closure of the Western Balkans transit route in March 2016, onward passage from Greece through FYROM has not been possible for arriving refugees and migrants. The restrictive EU-Turkey statement that followed came into effect on 20 March.

Those who arrived before 20 March and could not cross into FYROM are stranded on mainland Greece, hoping for relocation in other European countries. Those who have arrived after are on the Greek islands, risk forced deportation back into Turkey. Both groups find themselves in run-down conditions.

With limited options for travel onwards, around 50,000 refugees and migrants in mainland Greece are in need of emergency services. Refugee camps have opened in new locations across the country, including outside the main urban centres, Athens and Thessaloniki. Many of them are not suitable for people to live in, being industrial warehouses.


NRC activities in the field

Through its Greece programme, NRC brings assistance to displaced people that arrived and continue arriving in Chios by sea. On the mainland, where refugees are stranded in camps, NRC strives to help them live in conditions of dignity and face the harsh climate.
On Chios NRC works together with the Greek authorities, humanitarian agencies and volunteers to assist refugees in open reception and identification facilities and informal settlements.

In the Thessaloniki area, NRC’s teams support the authorities in the management and upgrade of five refugee camps, and facilitate the transfer of vulnerable refugees and migrants from camp settings to urban accommodation.

Through NORCAP, NRC has also deployed more than 20 experts to Greece, boosting the UN’s and the Greek Government's capacity to respond to the crisis.

NRC's initial response primarily hinged on site management support to the authorities. Since the beginning of its intervention, NRC has focused on ensuring the provision of quality services in the camps though enhanced coordination and information management, infrastructural upgrade as well as timely dissemination of key information to camp residents.

In the second half of 2016, NRC has been expanding its portfolio of activities, gradually including additional sectors, such as Education, Food Security and Shelter. In Thessaloniki NRC is planning to offer a holistic urban housing scheme – ensuring not only the provision of shelter but also access to other basic services –for vulnerable refugees and migrants.

Furthermore, NRC has been raising awareness on the reality faced by refugees as they arrive in Europe. NRC has been advocating for a coordinated response that not only addresses the humanitarian needs, but also encourages the international community and European member states to fulfil their human rights and refugee law obligations.

Camp management

NRC has been supporting the authorities in camp management and coordination in the reception and identification centre and in the overflow informal settlements on Chios Island, as well as in five refugee sites on the mainland. Between May and December 2016 NRC was also the national Site Management Support (SMS) working group co-coordinator.

NRC’s camp management teams support the Government-appointed Camp Managers in:

  • Improving camp-level coordination and establishing shared standard operating procedures for activities conducted by different actors in the camps
  • Disseminating vital information on services available in the camps to refugees and migrants through focus group discussions, awareness campaigns and various information products.
  • Promoting community engagement in the form of support to community representation structure and involvement of traditionally under-represented groups
  • Upgrading and maintaining key site infrastructure, including water and sanitation facilities and winterization installations.
  • Building the capacity of volunteer groups and other stakeholders operating in the camps through the delivery of day-to-day training and ad hoc workshops.

Moreover, in late 2016 NRC has rolled out its urban project in Thessaloniki, comprising an Urban Displacement Out of Camps (UDOC) component which adapts key elements of camp management to the urban setting refugees and migrants are relocated to. The UDOC team follows up on the needs of the vulnerable families targeted by the urban housing programme, ensuring that they have meaningful access to services and progressively integrate into the Greek society.


In 2016, NRC started up education projects in Greece:

  • In the camps around Thessaloniki, we have started to provide morning classes that will target 600 children between 7 and 15 years of age in their mother tongue.
  • On the Island of Chios, through a partnership, we are providing non-formal education to 300 children and youth.

Food security

The NRC food security project addresses the basic food needs of refugee families in the informal site of Souda and supplementary food distribution in the Reception and Identification Services on the Island of Chios. Our food security activities:

  • Through the two volunteer organisations, PSK and Zaporeak, 3600 pre-cooked meals per day and prepared and distributed.
  • The volunteer organisation Drop in the Ocean supports with breakfast food supplies by undertaking breakfast distribution as well as support to the distributions of the other meals.


Shelter & WASH

NRC is focussing its shelter and WASH activities on bringing the temporary warehouses sites up to the minimum safety and dignity standards on the Greek mainland and on the sites on Chios Island. At the same time, NRC is also promoting out of-camp housing with a package of rented accommodation and services for refugee households. This would be the ideal solution and therefore primarily intended for the most vulnerable people.

While advocating for the closure of warehouses as refugee camps, in December NRC focused on winterizing two camps in Thessaloniki, by insulating tents, proving heating systems and fire safety awareness.

About NRC in Greece

Budget 2016
NOK 43 million
International staff
Field office
Thessaloniki, Chios
National staff


Country Director

Gianmaria Pinto



About vacancies

IMPORTANT: If you are interested in applying for positions in NRC, please visit our Vacancies page. CVs sent via email will not be considered, with the only exception of asylum seekers and refugees, who are allowed to send their CV directly at Despoina Papadopoulou (despoina.papadopoulou@nrc.no) for Thessaloniki and Eleni Kontaroudi (eleni.kontaroudi@nrc.no) for Chios.

Please, note that applying does not authomatically guarantee a job offer, which can be issued only if there is one open postion matching with the CV and only after a proper and transparent recruitment process. Finally, NRC cannot hire interns, unless advertised on the website. The recruitment of an intern is subjected to the same process of ay other position.