Electricity cut, water pipes frozen – harsh realities of camp life during winter in Greece

Published: 17 January 2017 21:37 CET

By Avra Fiala, IFRC


People living in camps across Greece are continuing to battle extreme temperatures this winter, with some as low as -15 degrees Celsius.


The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ Jamie Sport is working with camp communities in the north of the country. He says high winds this week have made the situation more difficult for people who have already faced months of hardship stranded in Greece.


“Biting cold, freezing rain, snow, and treacherous ground conditions—this is the everyday reality for the people living in camps and the organizations working with migrants and refugees,” he said.


“People are queuing for food in sub-zero temperatures.


“But it’s not just about keeping warm.”


Roads, water and power supply have all been hit by the recent conditions.


“In northern Greece, the weather has affected electricity, frozen water pipes and has even rendered roads impassable.”


In the run-up to winter, Hellenic Red Cross teams helped to insulate 900 tents and provide heaters in camps in northern Greece. In the past two weeks, Red Cross teams have given out 1,500 blankets and heaters for families living in containers on Lesvos island where conditions are also worrying.


Sport says that while these measures helped to address some of the immediate problems caused by freezing temperatures, longer term solutions are needed.


“People need dignity - it is critical that the response in Greece moves from emergency mode to sustainable, long-term solutions.


“Frustrations, tensions and health problems are mounting as people are exhausted, traumatized, and lack critical information about their future.”