Concern for refugee camp residents as heatwave hits Greece
[03.08.2021, 15:00 CET]
For Immediate Release
As temperatures in Greece soar to over 40 degrees Celsius, the Greek Ministry for Migration and Asylum has issued a statement recommending that people living in refugee camps should “stay indoors” in areas with air-conditioning and consume large amounts of water. This advice has raised questions for camp residents and charities supporting them, who point out that many camps do not have appropriate accommodation and facilities to protect people during such extreme heat.
At Mavrovouni camp on the Aegean island of Lesvos, electricity is only supplied for a few hours a day, meaning air-conditioning is usually unavailable. Meanwhile, water supplies at a number of camps across Greece are limited – access to drinking water is not guaranteed and water shortages are already common. In addition, recent months have seen a sharp rise in the numbers of people living on the streets or in insecure housing on the mainland, having been ejected from island reception facilities and offered no further support after being granted asylum. In the face of such extreme temperatures, there is growing concern that displaced people across Greece, who are often highly vulnerable, risk being failed once again by the Greek authorities.
The inadequate conditions on the Greek islands have been highlighted by Javid (not his real name), who arrived in Samos to seek asylum two years ago having fled Afghanistan. Javid explains that “The temperature in the camp is too hot, specifically the tents...you can't breathe in the tent during the day or night because of the heat. And during the day you have to go somewhere outside of the camp to cool off...I want to be in my tent to learn a new language or do something positive for my future...I don't have water to take a shower and electricity. I have to bring water from 15 minutes away...I don't have the basic needs and I'm sure there are a lot of people like me here”
As NGOs seek to ensure that displaced communities are protected during the heatwave, there is growing concern that people seeking sanctuary will once again be given little consideration by the authorities, as has often been the case during the Covid-19 pandemic. EMA argues that systematic neglect and lack of adequate protection for asylum seekers and refugees in Greece puts displaced people at particular risk during the heatwave.
Cecilia Sanfelici, Aegean Advocacy Coordinator at the campaign group Europe Must Act is currently in Samos where temperatures are expected to exceed 40 degrees celsius for much of the week. “In these dangerously high temperatures, the government and camp management cannot proceed with business as usual. Refugee camps are never designed to offer people the necessary protection from extreme weather conditions, which are becoming increasingly frequent during all seasons in Greece,” Ms Sanfelici says.
“Many camps continue to accomodate people in tents and make-shift shelters with no air conditioning. Meanwhile, ad hoc and temporary measures such as distribution of extra water and transfer of pregnant women and vulnerable people to temporary shelters with AC does not solve the structural problems posed by this type of reception solution. The extreme heat wave that is currently hitting the Greek territory shows once again the absolute humane and environmental unsustainability of these camps.”
Notes for Editors
Europe Must Act (EMA) is a growing grassroots movement, bringing together volunteers and NGOs to campaign for the humane, dignified and legal reception of refugees in Europe. EMA was established in March 2020 by a group of volunteers on the Greek Aegean islands of Chios and Samos in response to the ever-worsening situation of the hotspot camps. For more information about EMA, please visit www.europemustact.org/about-us.
Further comments available.
Ruth Heylin, Press Spokesperson Europe Must Act
Christian Schmidt, Press Coordinator Europe Must Act
Press release by the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum