AYS DAILY DIGEST 06.01.17 — Refugees endure harsh winter in Europe

Preparations for the winter not completed in the Aegean Islands. Refugees, including children, still sleeping in Belgrade’s abandoned buildings.

Photo by Eric Kempson


Some refugee camps still unprepared for the winter

“there are no refugees or migrants living in the cold anymore. We successfully completed the procedures for overwintering”

This is not the case in all mainland camps and volunteers and UNHCR alike have pointed out the dire situation in island camps, where people still sleep in unheated tents.

UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said today:

“Conditions at many sites on the islands remain very poor. The need for better protection will become all the more acute this weekend when temperatures on the islands are expected to drop. We are worried.”

To the UNHCR the situation is concerning on Chios, Lesvos and Samos in particular, as “on Samos, around 700 people including young children and other vulnerable individuals remain in unheated tents in the Reception and Information Centre”.

For the MSF head in Greece, Clément Perrin, talking to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency, the situation is “infuriating” — as of last Friday, MSF counted 329 tents without heating and access to hot water in Samos, while in Lesvos, hot water is only available in the morning, causing large queues. Volunteers’ photos also show that people are still sleeping in unheated tents on Lesvos, on Chios and on Samos.


Lesvos. Photo by Eric Kempson


Chios. Photo by Salvamento Marítimo Humanitario
Chios. Photo by Salvamento Marítimo Humanitario
Chios. Photo by Salvamento Marítimo Humanitario


“Rain, cold, tents, wet clothes, sickness, sogging blankets, puddles, ruined belongings again, more rain” Photo by No more borders, No more tears

While the UNHCR criticises living conditions on the islands, it also states that

“On the mainland, the challenges we faced just a few weeks ago are diminishing. Over the Christmas and New Year period UNHCR completed the winter preparation work for all the sites assigned to us by the Greek authorities and we are completing additional infrastructural upgrades elsewhere.”

However, in camps like Softex, people are still enduring terrible living conditions.

“-5°C, according to my phone felt like -12°C. A storm that made dozens of toilets just fly away. And still 130 children under 12 living in this camp. As much as I try to prepare myself for those kind of days, when I stand in the camp I freeze again and again in disbelief.”

Meanwhile, small organisations are trying to fill the gaps.

Photo by Intervolve

In Softex for example, Intervolve, with the help of The Get Shit Done Team, has been providing containers with wooden doors and windows as some people had to sleep with the wind blasting through their “home”.

They also plan to provide snow suits for children and blankets tomorrow, well knowing that these are only temporary solutions, but hoping that it will at least somewhat improve their lives.

Photo by Intervolve

Beyond stories of unheated tents, “winterisation” and other NGO talk, refugees should never have had to spend a second winter in Greece in the first place. The problems refugees are facing are not only the fault of Greece and the UNHCR — they are also due to the EU’s failure to relocate refugees as it promised.

Due to extremely low temperatures, the following “shelters” in Thessaloniki will remain open during the night in order to host homeless people:

1/Andreou Georgiou 13, Thessaloniki, 546 27
Phone: 0030 2310528811
Open from 19h00 to 11h00 the next day

2/ Cultural Center “Christos Tsakiris”
Lagkada 221, Stavroupoli 564 30

3/ The health center of the municipality of Thermi
Phone: 0030 2313 310800

Many thanks to Pandelis Papadopoulos for all the information.


Two refugees died of exposure to the cold

Serbia (Belgrade: -9° to -16° on Saturday)

Unregistered migrants unable to sleep in reception centers despite announcement by authorities

This instance highlights what volunteers and activists had feared about the announcement, that it was namely lip-service which would enable the “responsible” actors to wash their hands of responsibility for any deaths that may occur. Serbia continues to criminalize the existence of humans.

MSF provides heaters in derelict Belgrade warehouse

Unaccompanied children sleep in Belgrade despite freezing temperatures


Refugees in hospital due to exposure to the cold

Photo by Lorena Fornasir

Refugees are still sleeping in the streets of Italy. Rete Solidale Pordenone says that in their city of Pordenone 12 people were sleeping in a parking, with two of them hospitalised with high fever and pneumonia — both had received asylum. The group criticizes the local government for its inaction, saying it could have activated an emergency plan, as the previous mayor and other cities did before.

Media reports on living conditions inside Cona reception centre

These conditions are dangerous, look at our clothes, we are not ready to face winter, we need your help and your voice. Take our cry of help to the Italian Commission, to the European Community, we need your support. This is an emergency situation”.


EU countries make proposals to close the borders to refugees

  • In Germany, DW reports that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU has floated the idea of flexible annual targets for asylum seeker numbers, after the CSU’s insistence on an upper limit of 200,000 refugees per year.
  • In Austria, Reuters says defence minister Hans Peter Doskozil has drafted a plan that would overhaul the European Union’s migrant policy by establishing a ceiling for migration and only permitting applications for asylum from outside the EU.


French teacher cleared of all charges for helping Eritreans cross the border

The farmer Cédric Herrou meanwhile, was in court on Wednesday for helping refugees cross the border ad finding them shelter, with the prosecution asking the court for an eight-month suspended sentence.

Kurdish artist opens first art exhibition near Avignon

Photo by Dunkirk Refugee Children’s Centre


Refugees At Home needs help in Bournemouth

SOAS University of London offers scholarships

Daily news digests from the field, mainly for volunteers and refugees on the route, but also for journalists and other parties.

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