Fears for welfare of migrants transferred to sports hall from northern Greek border

Publié: 14 décembre 2015 17:11 CET

Concerns are growing for the welfare of thousands of people who have been bussed back to Athens from the border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Migrants stranded in Idomeni, northern Greece have been returned to a sports hall in the capital, where the Hellenic Red Cross is providing emergency food and health care to about 2,500 people. Conditions are cramped in the temporary registration centre and people are currently sleeping on the floor. Sanitation facilities are also inadequate.

Steve McAndrew, head of the emergency operation in Greece for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said: “We are seriously concerned about the welfare of people in the centre and what the future holds for them – they have no idea what will happen to them and where they will finally be able to live in peace.

“The Red Cross will remain here and continue to provide support for those staying in the centre, but it is vital more is done to respond to their needs.”

Although an additional registration centre has been set up in the city, there is limited capacity to meet even the most basic humanitarian needs. People are queuing for hours for food distributed by the Red Cross and other organizations.

Masha, 14, fled Iran with her father Sam, a Christian, to escape religious persecution. But three weeks ago, countries along the Western Balkan route changed border policies to only admit Iraqi, Afghan and Syrian asylum seekers, meaning all other nationalities have little choice but to remain in Greece.

Masha, a talented musician, said: “We don’t care where we go just as long as we can find somewhere safe. I hope to become an engineer in the future, maybe work with computers. And I hope I can continue playing the violin – it is my passion.”

The Hellenic Red Cross has been working at the sports hall since 25 November. Volunteers worked well into the night distributing food when 20 buses of people from Idomeni arrived on 9 December.

The Hellenic Red Cross also manages a medical centre on-site and provides psychosocial support and safe spaces for children.

Thousands of migrants are arriving in Greece daily, many of whom are now unable to continue their journey through Europe. The Hellenic Red Cross continues to respond in Lesvos, Kos, Samos, Chios, and in Idomeni where a transit camp remains for Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi refugees who are allowed entry into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Last month, the IFRC quadrupled its emergency appeal for Greece, and is seeking 13.2 million Swiss francs to support the Hellenic Red Cross in reaching 200,000 people with relief items, medical treatment, psychosocial support, and search and rescue services.