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Not since the Second World War have there been so many refugees seeking shelter in Europe. According to UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, more than 1,4 million people fled across the Mediterranean to Europe since 2015. In 2016 more than 50 percent of them chose the route through the Aegean Sea to Greece. More than 85 percent of the refugees seeking shelter in Greece came either from Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq, and more than half of them were women and children.
With the tightening of asylum policy and the closure of the borders in March 2016, Greece currently has to deal with the vast majority of the refugees. At the moment, more than 62 000 registered refugees are stranded in Greece according to offical data, without any option to continue their journey. Greece, which ever since 2010 has itself been struggling massively to cope with the effects of the financial crisis, is hopelessly overburdened with the registration and care of the incoming refugees. This has led to an unprecedented emergency situation. Although volunteers, NGOs and government agencies are working tirelessly to bring some relief, conditions in the camps are unacceptable. Safe shelter is lacking and many refugees are left to fend for themselves without reliable information and medico-psychological care. Children additionally suffer from the fact that schools are not able or willing to accept more children and integrate them into their classes.
Caritas Switzerland’s emergency aid in Greece
Together with its partner, Caritas Greece, Caritas Switzerland is providing refugees in Greece with emergency aid to improve their living conditions:
Caritas Switzerland is making 5 million Swiss francs available for emergency relief and survival assistance for refugees and persons displaced by war in Europe. Caritas Switzerland is carrying out these measures jointly with Caritas Greece, supported by Caritas Germany, Caritas Austria and SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation).
Assistance work completed in Idomeni, Serbia and Croatia
In Idomeni on the Greek-Macedonian border, the Caritas network had, until the start of the camp clearance in May 2016, been improving the hygiene and sanitary facilities and distributed food and other basic essentials to around 100 000 people.
In Serbia and Croatia, Caritas Switzerland, in cooperation with Caritas Serbia and Caritas Croatia, provided emergency winter aid for 30 000 refugees from September 2015 until March 2016. Because of the closure of the borders along the Balkan route, the measures have now been terminated.