We are devastated by the news we are hearing from the ground in Europe this week, with freezing weather engulfing the continent and temperatures reaching as low as -20 degrees celsius.
Meanwhile refugees continue to live in snow covered flimsy tents in camps, exposed to the elements – the conditions people are living in is costing lives
Three refugees have died already and thousands more face being exposed to freezing conditions in Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Hungary and France leading to fears of hypothermia and further deaths.
An Afghan migrant believed to be a twenty year-old man died of hypothermia in Greece last week, while the bodies of two others, believed to be from Iraq, were found in South East Bulgaria, with the BBC reporting that their deaths were also thought to be linked to the cold weather.
Temperatures have reached -15C in Greece and as low as -20C in Serbia and Hungary, which combined with poor accommodation and lack of support from authorities, has caused grass roots organisations to intensify their calls for action.
Meanwhile Greek Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas told journalists on the 5th of January that no refugees were living in the cold anymore, but footage has since emerged of the reception centre Lesvos (which hosts some 5800 people) covered in snow. Further images show refugees, 40% of whom are believed to be minors, emerging in the morning from freezing, often poorly insulated tents, which are caked in snow.
Similarly, nearly 2000 asylum seekers and migrants are sleeping rough in Belgrade, yet the Serbian government have refused groups such as Medecins Sans Frontieres’ requests to build temporary and winterised camps.
In Hungary refugees are living in camps with no insulation, while in Paris, teams on the ground tell us that police stealing migrants’ blankets in incidents despite sub zero temperatures. Last week MSF having to assist eight people with hypothermia.
With freezing conditions looking set to continue across many parts of Europe, including Southern Greece, we are asking states, large organisations, international agencies to reassess their bureaucratic procedures and spend money where it’s needed.
In 2015 UNHCR’s total expenditure for Europe was over $243.7 million.
Meanwhile Help Refugees have been working the past few months to winterise the camps in Greece, insulating and flooring hundreds of tents, providing warm clothing and hot water bottles, and funding sustainable housing for refugees.
On such housing project in Filoxenia (currently provided accommodation to 60 people, 40 of whom are children) provides immeasurably better protection from the elements and is calculated to cost €2 less per day than the current recourse of refugees living in tents in the already crowded camps. There is no need for refugees to be forced to sleep in tents in camps..
With love, compassion and determination we have to collectively insure people are warm, fed and sheltered. And we can if we work together.
Please donate to help us continue our winterisation projects and social housing initiatives.