First snow fall of the winter brings more misery to northern Greece

Published: 29 November 2016 16:49 CET


By Caroline Haga, IFRC


Michael from Syria stands outdoors by an open fire trying to keep warm in the freezing weather at Kordelio-Softex camp. The temperature is below zero and the first snow has fallen in northern Greece.

“It is really cold here,” he says. “We don’t have electric heating in our containers and rely on some gas burners, which can be really dangerous should they fall.

“The toilets are outside and you have to walk in the cold to get there. We even don’t have warm water to wash our hands with.”

Michael recently moved to the camp which is near Thessaloniki and currently houses more than 1,500 people.

Altogether more than 60,000 people remain stranded in Greece, many of them facing the winter in unheated accommodation and tents.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling for alternative housing for people stranded in Greece. More than 12 months into the crisis, longer term and more dignified places for people to stay is essential.

“Every day, Red Cross volunteers and staff witness the difficulties people living in sub-standard conditions are facing,” says Ruben Cano, IFRC’s Head of Office in Greece.

“Urgent action must be taken to address inadequate accommodation in camps. As winter sets in, we are very concerned that accidents such as fires will increase as people struggle to keep their families warm. Decent housing, heaters and access to kitchen facilities are vital to protect people physically and emotionally.”

The Hellenic Red Cross is providing blankets, sleeping bags and warm clothes for people in camps while the Government of Greece works on planning camp improvements and upgrades.

As for Michael, he is relying on his pets to keep him warm throughout the harsh winter.

“I have three dogs and one cat. When they are with me I feel warm,” he says.