Over the past few days, the situation in Greece has become desperate, the partial result of continuing influxes of refugees and also, to a greater degree, the inability of European leaders to settle on adequate provisions for asylum-seekers’ safe passage and relocation. As humane policies fail to be reached, the EU’s improvisational and, as is the case with the recent EU-Turkey agreement, illegal, tactics for stalling the influx, have left thousands stranded in Greece, with little hope of continuing their journey to central and northern Europe through legal channels.
Beginning on March 1st, the border between Greece and Macedonia was shut to Afghani and Iraqi people. Despite their previous recognition as refugees (their home countries classified as war zones like Syria), these people are forced to stay in Greece. Thousands of stranded people are finding that they have few options: walk over 500 kilometers to the border only to squat at on the borders of the Idomeni camp whose facilities have been stretched beyond breaking point, and then turned back to Athens, or be placed in over-crowed and underfunded facilities in Athens. The repercussions of the new policy have led to rescheduling and capping the number of tickets sold to refugees arriving on Lesvos.
Blue Star and Hellenic Seaways Ferries have become the only ferries to leave the island whereas before their passenger overflow was given to a state-organized ferry. So far, the schedule is for one ferry to leave each day. This ferry will only sell twenty percent of the tickets to refugees, which is a maximum of 600 places. According to UNHCR, there are almost two million refugees in Turkey. Up to 2000 people arrive in Lesvos per day; the registration capacity of the Moria camp is at 2500 per day. Yet only 600 of these people will be allowed to leave.
With camps such as Moria in the South becoming overcrowded, there is more pressure for transit camps, like the Cheese Factory, to accommodate the influx. We try to provide as many people as possible with backpacks stocked with basic necessities: such as shoes, dry clothes and toiletries. Given the change in situation, Proti Stassi is gathering its resources together to make temporary accommodation a top priority.