Greece: Camp closures, rebuilds and transfers

In Greece, camps are closing, new camps are being built, and refugees and other migrants are being transferred from the islands to the mainland. A Drop in the Ocean is adapting to the new developments to support the needs of people forced to flee.

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The wall around Nea Kavala refugee camp. Photo: Thea Jerejian

The refugee situation in Greece has been uncertain and unpredictable since the height of the refugee crisis in 2015. At present, camps are being closed completely, while others are being rebuilt to reflect a new close-camp approach, often in entirely different locations.

Refugees and other migrants are being transferred to the mainland or relocated to other camps, but many will not be rehoused and face homelessness or deportation.

Skaramagas camp closure

In April, the Greek government announced the closure of the Skaramagas camp outside of Athens. The official reason for the closure is that the site where the camp is built is for sale.

Many families in the camp who are still waiting for their second asylum interview have been moved to Oynofita, Ioannina, Corinthos, and Ritsona camps. Families and single persons, who are either eligible for or enrolled in integration programmes in Helios and Hestia, have been proposed to move to apartments in and around Athens and Crete.

Those who have received double rejections have been asked to leave the camp as they do not have access to any legal assistance from the actors in Skaramagas. With other camp closures in the Attica region, combined with the transfers from the island, there is concern that many will end up homeless as accommodations and shelters in Athens are already at full capacity.

A Drop in the Ocean has been present in Skaramagas since 2016, but due to the imminent closure of Skaramagas camp, we are no longer accepting any volunteer applications for this site. We continue our distributions to residents in Skaramagas and the nearby Elefsina camp and are in the process of finding new ways to partner with other NGOs and to help externally or in the remaining camps in the area, if allowed. 

Rebuilt camp in Nea Kavala

Nea Kavala was one of the first sites in Greece to become a formal camp in 2015. It is located close to the North Macedonian border and is considered a transit destination for people forced to flee, who wish to move on to another country or who have been unsuccessful in their asylum application in Greece.

The new camp is one of the first camps to have been rebuilt in close proximity to the previous site and to have successfully transferred the entire camp population. The current camp population is estimated to be around 1350 residents, with a maximum capacity of 1700, exceeding the previous maximum capacity of 1500.

The layout of the new site is better organised to create safer and more accessible spaces for the residents, service providers as well as the security team on the ground. The new facilities consist of ISO boxes and recreational spaces such as fenced-in playgrounds, a community-led school and sports pitches. There are also plans to establish places of worship and a gym.

It is our understanding that the camp will reach capacity levels due to the governmental policies to decongest the islands.

We continue to organise non-formal education activities such as English, Greek, and computer courses, distribute essential items and to host workshops aimed to empower residents. At the same time, we are taking concrete steps to identify other needs in the camp.

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