Balkans and Greece: Stranded refugees face freezing temperatures
Stranded refugees in the Balkans are facing freezing temperatures and are in urgent need of assistance. “The lives of thousands of men, women and children are at risk,” says Sumka Bucan, CARE’s Regional Balkan Director.
We are talking about families who already lost everything. They don’t have any resources to protect themselves from temperatures dropping as low as minus 15 degrees, heavy winds and snow fall.
“Most people live in makeshift communal facilities, mostly empty factories or hotels that do not provide enough heating and safety.”
In Belgrade, over a thousand refugees, including children, are living in the open in temperatures as low as minus-10 degrees. During the night families are sleeping on the floor in old warehouses or in parking spots.
“These are inhumane conditions, especially for unregistered, ‘invisible’ refugees and migrants. There is no water, only limited access to sanitation facilities and health services,” explains Bucan.
These people fled war-torn countries such as Syria and Afghanistan, they came to save their children’s lives and to seek protection. It is unbearable that they are now at risk of freezing to death on the European continent.
In Sjenica in the south of Serbia more than 450 refugees are living in a refugee camp with capacity for 250 persons only. CARE and our partner organisation IMPULS are supporting refugees with food packages, clothes, mattresses, hygiene items, a washing machine.
In Adasevci, at the biggest refugee camp in the country, CARE and partners are supporting more than 1,100 refugees with sanitation facilities and warm meals.
Ten months since borders closed across the Balkans, more than 60,000 people are also still living in limbo in Greece. Efforts have been made recently to improve conditions in the camps on the mainland. Aleksandra Godziejewska, CARE Country Representative in Greece, says:
“Conditions are slowly improving, but this is too late to ensure warm living conditions for refugees during this winter. Many refugees still live in unheated tents, warehouses or are squatting in unprepared buildings in the urban environment.”
CARE is supporting families with cash assistance so they can buy for themselves the things that they most urgently need. Selva, mother of two young girls, told us:
The first thing I will do when I receive the cash is go to the supermarket. I want to buy food and clothes for me and my daughters.
CARE also provides legal and psychosocial assistance to urban refugees in Greece, particularly women who are able, after months of stress, to talk about their feelings in a safe space and to gain strength from solidarity with others in the same position.
In Serbia and Croatia, CARE and local partners provide 24/7 assistance to new arrivals. To protect people from the severe weather conditions, CARE distributes warm clothes, blankets, hot meals and mattresses. To date, the emergency teams have reached more than 180,000 people.
In Greece, CARE supports refugees with cash assistance and provides legal and psychosocial assistance to urban refugees. With support from the European Commission and other donors, CARE aims to reach 4,000 people up to the end of March.
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