Food, shelter and questions in Athens
This is the third in a series of reports from Heydon Prowse, one of the main team members at Help Refugees. Heydon recently travelled to Macedonia and Greece to meet organisations we are funding and to research new groups for funding.
Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st January 2016
I arrived in Thessaloniki and boarded a plane to Athens arriving at about nine that night. I went straight to a squat where a 150 Syrian, Afghan, Iraqi, Iranian and Palestinian families and minors are being housed. These families and young people are in limbo – many are trying to work out where to go next and where they stand legally. Quite a few are now considering applying for asylum in Greece as the rest of Europe is becoming more difficult to reach.
I met a number of young Iranian men who were part of the opposition movement in Iran and were forced to flee because of government persecution. Applying for asylum is difficult for Iranians.
The squat is run by a number of Greek and British volunteers. It is very well organised and provides a vital bit of shelter and infrastructure to vulnerable people living in a strange city trying to work out how and where to apply for asylum.
The volunteers who run the squat try to provide access to immigration lawyers, but this costs them money. They have lots of very well organised store rooms for food, clothes, toiletries and medical supplies. Refugees are allowed to pick their own clothes which is very important for self esteem – especially for the teenagers.
The next day we cooked for the homeless refugees (mostly North African) living in Victoria Square. I bought food for the volunteers and we made a huge curry which we gave out to about 200 people. The refugees from the squat help with the cooking and food distribution.
There is a great community spirit during the cooking and sharing of the food. It is a heart-warming reminder that while many of these people have lost everything, their spirits cannot be quenched.
We would not be able to do our work without your support and kindness. Many of the
refugees we help are fleeing the conflict zones of Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Others are trying to
escape political oppression in countries like Eritrea. All are human beings like us. As well as providing
immediate physical assistance, we want to help refugees maintain their dignity.
Please click through if you would like to find out more about our work in Calais, Dunkirk, Lesvos, Samos, Idomeni
and other locations. If you would like to know how you can help refugees, please check out our