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, 173,450 individuals reached Greece by sea. On March 20th 2016 the EU and Turkey signed an agreement and the influx steadily decreased.
NRC started operations in Greece in mid-October 2015.
A new wave of crisis
The majority of those making the dangerous journey since 2015 have been fleeing conflict in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries. They are prompted by anguish and despair, the constant threat of violence as well as the lack of access to health services, jobs and education. In Turkey, where many seek refuge before leaving by boat, limited opportunities coupled with asylum barriers and 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. In 2016, 146 died and 51 were missing. Despite border closures and the risks of deportation, people still make the desperate choice - they arrive cold, wet and traumatised, some on the brink of death, others separated from their families.
A transit stop, not destination
The refugees, migrants and asylum seekers who arrive in Greece look to travel 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 2016.
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 20 March are on the Greek islands, at risk of forced deportation to Turkey. Both groups find themselves in desperate straits.
With limited options for travel onwards, around 48,000 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 of Athens and Thessaloniki. Many of them are not suitable for people to live in, having originally been industrial warehouses. Many of them are unsuitable for habitation, having originally been industrial warehouses, and NRC has been advocating for a move towards an urban response.
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, including supporting education.
In the Thessaloniki area, NRC’s teams support the authorities in the management and upgrade of two refugee camps. NRC facilitate the transfer of vulnerable refugees and migrants from camp settings to urban accommodation and provide education.
Through NORCAP, NRC has also deployed 58 experts to Greece since 2015, 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 addition NRC provides Education, Food Security and Shelter. In Thessaloniki NRC is now offering 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.
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 two refugee sites on the mainland.
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 2017, we opened “Agora”, a community centre designed to provide information and resources to aid organisations, refugees and migrants on Chios. In Thessaloniki, a “drop-in centre” in the city centre will open to provide support to refugees placed in apartments in the vicinity.
In 2016, NRC started up education projects in Greece:
- In the camps around Thessaloniki, we now provide classes that target 600 children between 7 and 15 years of age in English, Greek, Arabic, maths and science, as well as providing IT and English classes to youth aged 15 upwards.
- On the Island of Chios, through a partnership with Swiss NGO Be aware and share (BAAS), we are providing non-formal education to 300 children and youth.
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:
- Provide approximately 3,000 pre-cooked meals per day to residents of Souda Camp. The Norwegian volunteer organisation A Drop in the Ocean supports with the distribution.
Shelter & WASH
We focus our 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.
About NRC in Greece
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) for Thessaloniki and Eleni Kontaroudi (email@example.com) 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.
NRC Chios: The Handover
For nearly two years, NRC has been helping displaced people on the island of Chios, providing food, informal education and assistance to the Greek government running accommodation sites. The programme ends on July 31, when funding for the activities ceases and the Greek authorities take over management for services on the islands.
Providing refugees in Greece with a room of their own
Vulnerable refugees stranded in Greece swap life in a tent for an address in Thessaloniki.