In 2015, Greece made headlines around the world when approximately one million mostly Syrian refugees landed on the Aegean islands seeking safety. Everyday, tens of thousands of refugees would arrive in small unsafe boats, and people would transit through the islands and onwards to the mainland of Europe. The situation seemingly stabilized as numbers decreased owing to a political deal made between Turkey and the European Union. However, numbers were still unsustainable, and many people languished for years in overcrowded camps, sometimes as high as ten times their capacity. In Lesvos, by 2019, there were 24,000 refugees crammed into a space meant for 10% of that number. After a change in government the same year, massive transfers started taking place from the Aegean islands to the Greek mainland. As a result, three years later, there are now tens of thousands of asylum seekers and refugees dispersed throughout the mainland.
In 2022, many of these people have no recognized rights: no ability to work, no ability to generate income, and are unable to feed themselves, find shelter, or access social services. As a result, even the most vulnerable and terminally ill people are often sleeping on the streets, foregoing medical care, and surviving off one meal a day. The EU response has been to create closed camp structures, which, as their name suggests, are prison-like spaces surrounded by concrete and barbed wire, with monitored entrances and exits. Food has been regularly criticized as being inedible, and even social and medical services in these camps have admitted they’re not able to meet the needs of the refugees. Moreover, these camps are only an option for as long as someone's asylum case is pending: once someone has received refugee status, or their claim for asylum has been rejected, they no longer qualify for accommodation or food within these structures.
Daily, we hear of people who, despite doing everything in their power, find themselves without shelter, food, or access to healthcare. Medications are stopped and doctors visits become impossible due to a lack of health insurance.
Despite being out of the spotlight, Greece is still facing a humanitarian refugee crisis, with no signs of stopping. We look forward to updating you on the developments in real time!