In Greece, NGOs have sounded the alarm: many refugees and asylum seekers do not have enough to eat. A month after the visit of Pope Francis to Greece, where he asked to stop the «wreck of civilization», Dozens of organizations denounce the increase in hunger and the precarious conditions of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers in the country, especially in the continental area, where those who have either received refugee status or who, for the On the contrary, their application has been denied and they continue to reside in the camps (even though they cannot officially do so) because they have nowhere to go. In addition, the processes of economic aid to the
asylum seekers since Greece succeeded the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in assuming this competence on October 1.
La ONG Refugee Support Aegean (RSA), which offers legal advice to people who must be deported, has denounced in a report this week the ‘
hunger crisis of refugees in Greece ‘. RSA and other NGOs consulted by this newspaper warn that three months later the Ministry of Migration and Asylum has still not fulfilled its commitment to disburse the monthly economic allowance to asylum seekers after the transfer of competence by the office of the UN for refugees Acnur.
Food has been cut off in the camps for the hundreds of people who are not entitled to the allowance and have no other means of subsistence. According to sources consulted, it was expected that by the end of October the Hellenic administration should have its system of direct aid through bank cards ready within the framework of a program financed by the EU. In the face of criticism, according to the German newscast
Tagschau of the ARD chain, the Greek Ministry of Migration has already assured that they are in the process of distributing this economic assistance to asylum seekers.
During the great refugee crisis of 2015 and 2016, Greece was barely recovering from its biggest economic shock in decades and therefore could not bear the costs of the massive arrivals of immigrants from Turkey. It was then that UNHCR assumed the responsibility of providing the necessary means of life – which included shelter, food, clothing and economic coverage for their needs – to asylum seekers.
With the improvement of the Greek economy and the progressive decrease in arrivals, the UN agency passed the baton to Greece, an economic assistance that, according to NGOs such as Refugee Support Aegean, has not yet materialized.
Asylum seekers have been guaranteed the food service directly distributed by Greek authorities since last October, but they do not have the financial help with which they can, for example, travel by bus to urban centers.
“Food is not lacking”
«Food is not lacking. Here asylum seekers are directly catered, ”says a humanitarian worker at the center. «Food is not lacking. Here asylum seekers are directly catered, ”says a humanitarian worker at the center. Until October, “the refugees who were here received 150 euros per month and a maximum of 500 per family unit. So by not having expenses, and being in a container where they do not pay for electricity, water or food, they could spend about 200 and the rest they could send to the family or save to go with the mafias. Now they receive the catering food and they no longer receive money, “he adds shortly before handing out the bedding to the residents in the camp.
Different is the situation of those who have achieved refugee status or have been denied it, but who continue to reside in the camps, comment the sources consulted. This is the case of those who still reside in one of the camps or wander through the public squares of Athens in search of the help of NGOs.
NGOs assume the role of the state
Those who stay in Greece once refugee status is achieved are mainly those who cannot afford to go to countries with a stronger welfare state such as Germany. Although they have the right, they cannot open a bank account or get a job. They often do not have the necessary papers or a permanent address because they cannot find an apartment.
This is the case of Grace, a young Congolese who attends Greek classes at the Athenian headquarters of the NGO Melissa Network. Grace hopes that with the command of the language she can get a job that allows her to be financially independent: for the moment she depends on NGOs to survive. Organizations such as Caritas hope that the integration program ‘Helios’, coordinated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and funded by the European Commission, aimed at supporting accommodation and employability, as well as modern Greek courses for the refugees.
“From the European Commission and the Greek Ombudsman, the Government was required to fulfill its obligations to cover the basic needs of asylum seekers, since it had received money from the EU for this. But he has not given anything. Last week Catholic Relief Services announced that it was going to take over this role and that it has said that it will also pay the money that the government has not provided to the beneficiaries, ”says Raquel, from the Jesuit Refugee Service Greece. “Besides not having this financial support, the families have been very nervous all this time. It is a shame that this money has not yet been delivered and we still do not know when or what will happen, “he concludes.