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

Published 21. Jan 2016
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, 50 000 are stranded, and many continue to arrive to the Greek islands.


Total number of refugees
Refugees from other countries
New refugees
Source: UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). The figures are from 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. Over a period of two years (2015 – 2016) over 1.3 million people arrived in Europe by sea, out of whom over one million landed on Greece’s shores.

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 vulnerability 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. 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 full 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 March 20 and could not cross into FYROM are stranded on mainland Greece. Those who arrived later are on the Greek islands and face the risk of forced deporation. Both groups find themselves in run-down conditions.

With limited options for travel onwards, more than 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 main urban centres, Athens and Thessaloniki.


NRC in Greece

Through our Greece programme, we bring 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.

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 refugee camps, and facilitate the transfer of vulnerable refugees and migrants from camp settings to urban accomodation.

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

In Syria we would die quickly, but here we are dying slowly. In Syria we would be killed in the war, here the despair is strangling us.

Jamal, his wife and child (2) are in Chios, Greece (May 2016)


NRC's response includes camp and site management support, ensuring good services in the camps and involving refugees. We also provide information and repair or upgrade water and sanitation installations. 

We raise awareness on the reality faced by refugees as they arrive in Europe. We advocate 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

We support 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 four refugee sites on the mainland. Between May and October 2016 NRC was also the national Site Management Support (SMS) working group co-coordinator.

NRC support the Government-appointed Camp Managers in:

  • Improving the coordination in camps.
  • Ensuring refugees receive key information on services available.
  • Promoting community engagement.
  • Upgrading and maintaining infrastructure, including water and sanitation facilities.
  • Building the capacity of volunteer groups with training and workshops.


In Thessaloniki, NRC support refugees in urban settings with access to basic services and to integrate into the Greek society.



In 2016, NRC started up education projects in Greece:

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


Food security

We help refugee families in Souda and the Island of Chios with basic food needs. We:

  • Collaborate with two volunteer organisations, PSK and Zaporeak, to prepare and distribute 2600 pre-cooked meals per day.
  • Collaborate with the volunteer organisation, Drop in the Ocean, to distribute breakfast.


Shelter & WASH

On the Greek mainland and on Chios Island, we focus on bringing the temporary warehouses sites up to the minimum safety and dignity standards. NRC also promote housing outside camps by offering rented accommodation. This would be the ideal solution and are therefore primarily intended for the most vulnerable people.

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

NRC in Greece

Special Programme Adviser

Gianmaria Pinto


+30 694 888 89 59