top 10 facts about poverty in Greece
Although Greece may be known for its crystal clear blue waters, luxurious islands and fascinating ancient architecture, it is currently going through one of its greatest economic crises in Greek history. Here are the top 10 facts about poverty in Greece:

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in Greece

  1. Europe measures poverty using a metric called “relative poverty”: According to diaNEOsis Research and Policy Institute, people who live in relative poverty “have income that is lower than a set percentage of the economy’s median income. In Europe, the relative poverty threshold is currently set at 60 percent of median income”.
  2. Between 2011 and 2015, the relative poverty population increased by more than 1 percent.
  3. The percentage of the total population living in extreme poverty has rapidly increased in the past decade. Extreme poverty in Greece can range from 182 euros per month for a single member suburban or rural household, to 905 euros per month for parents with two children living in Athens and paying rent. In 2009, the percentage of the population in Greece living in extreme poverty was about 2.2 percent. In 2011, the percentage was 8.9. In 2015, extreme poverty levels stood at about 15 percent.
  4. Jobs are especially difficult to find for young people living in Greece. Half of the people between the ages of 15 and 25 are out of work. In some areas of Western Greece, youth unemployment is over 60 percent.
  5. Between 2008 and 2016, nearly half a million Greeks left the country. A year before Greece’s debt crisis arose, an exodus began. The main motive of the emigres was to find work.
  6. The Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, wants to raise the minimum wage in Greece. According to a New York Times article, Tsipras “has vowed to reverse some of the harshest austerity after August. He wants to raise the minimum wage and possibly restore unions’ collective bargaining power, which was cut under the terms of the bailouts”.
  7. Greece’s Red Cross provides various services to those in need all over Greece. The Hellenic Red Cross has 75 offices and 42 committees. Their work includes centers for social support and integration of refugees, free vaccinations for infants and children, health services and education programs, housing assistance for the homeless and much more.
  8. One of the nonprofits in Greece called Boroume (which translates to “we can” in Greek) serves over 20,000 meals a day to those in need and helps to reduce food waste while increasing the food supply in over 80 locations in Greece. Boroume has provided those in need over 20 million meals since 2011 and has a team of over 700 volunteers. The organization has also saved and distributed over 100 tons of fresh vegetables and fruits.
  9. By April 2018, there were over 51,000 migrants and refugees in Greece. Many of the Syrian refugees paid smugglers to help them cross the Aegean sea to get to Greece. They arrived on the island of Lesbos in Greece where they were not permitted to leave until their requests for asylum were processed. If granted asylum, the refugees were allowed to go to mainland Greece and live in either subsidized housing or a refugee camp.
  10. The Hellenic Red Cross provides cash assistance to refugees stranded in Greece. They help asylum seekers to buy necessities such as food, clothing and medicine. By December 2017, the Hellenic Red Cross had helped 2,750 people.

These top 10 facts about poverty in Greece are important to know in order to understand the impact economic crises has on its citizens. Although Greece is starting to recover from its crisis, they still have a long way to go.

Photo: Flickr

– Ariane Komyati

Refugee Squats: Living Conditions of Refugees in Greece
An estimated 57,000 refugees are currently stuck in a midpoint stage in Greece — halfway between where they once were and to where they’re trying to get. Many refugees in Greece are living in what are known as “squats” with the help of local activists and other refugees.

There are seven major squats in the city of Athens where approximately 1,500 refugees have found an alternative to government camps that have extensive health and safety problems. Because government camps suffered from things such as scabies, knife fights, food poisoning, inadequate facilities, snakes and scorpions, local activists and refugees worked together to house the refugees in abandoned schools, hotels, apartment buildings and hospitals — or squats.

As many as 1,000 refugees per day were able to be smuggled by mafias on rafts, but since Macedonia, Hungary and Bulgaria built razor-wire fences along their southern borders, refugees cannot access the Eastern Mediterranean route. Now the flow of refugees has come to a halt; however, the refugees who were already en route to Europe when the EU made its deal with Turkey in March 2016 are confined within the borders of Greece and the Greek islands.

Refugees in Greece, who believed they would only be spending a season in the country, now have to make a life for themselves in Greece. With the help of volunteers, activists and other refugees, this is altogether possible for the refugees living in squats. There are a wide variety of volunteers assisting in different ways. Volunteers and refugees help with cooking, cleaning, translating and securing the area; providing language lessons, art classes and activities for children; and organizing group outings.

The success of the squats has been achieved autonomously, with no help from government aid and without donations from large nongovernment organizations — the squats only accept donations and assistance from independent volunteers, which are used to pay bills for electricity, water, food and medical supplies. These volunteers have made these squats a home for refugees, each squat having a distinct character that suits the residents.

Unfortunately, these squats are in danger of being shut down by the government due to public health risks. Squats in Thessaloniki have been closed, which resulted in a large number of homeless refugees living on the streets. The shutting down of squats places more pressure on those that are still running and the volunteers running them.

With the help of more donations and assistance, these squats can improve their conditions and continue to serve the needs of refugees. Refugees in Greece are not living in adequate conditions within government camps, and therefore, squats have been produced to provide a home and a loving community to the refugees.

Kayla Mehl

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in EuropeLast year, there was a record high of 220,000 refugees in Europe seeking asylum. According to The Guardian, more than 900,000 people have sought refuge by sea to Greece or Italy due to civil unrest.

Syrians made up the largest part of this group, having fled their home country because of the 4-and-a-half year civil war that has taken the lives of over 200,000 Syrians, according to the New York Times.

The reasons why people become refugees are not hard to conjure – war, religious or social conflict, violence – but how these refugees secure their safety can be a long, stressful process.

The first step in seeking refuge is often finding a place that allows one to be close to their families, but far enough away from any threat of violence. According to The Guardian, it is almost impossible for Syrians to be granted legal access into other Arab countries.

This leaves places like Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon as places to escape, though refugee families in the Middle East no longer receive financial assistance from the UN due to funding shortcomings. These countries do not offer secure legal statuses to refugees either, which can prevent them from having the right to work.

These stipulations explain why so many refugees are traveling to Europe for refugee or asylum status by boat. According to the Guardian, more and more Syrians who become refugees in Europe are using the Balkan route – traveling by sea from Turkey to Greece and then walking through Macedonia and Serbia to reach European Union (EU) territories.

Open Society Foundations, an American organization whose mission statement is to “build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens” works with the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) that works to guarantee that international law protects the rights of refugees in its member states.

According to Open Society Foundations, if an asylum seeker or refugee is traveling through several EU countries, the CEAS allows one EU country to send that person to the first EU country they have reached, as long as that country maintains the rights of asylum seekers.

Unfortunately, only a small portion of asylum seekers are monitored this way, and the systems in Greece, Hungary and Italy have tried to block transfers of citizens with court orders. Some people who become refugees end up back in the south where their journey began.

Groups like Open Society Foundations are crucial in helping refugees and asylum seekers partake in legal movement for work and family without violating any human rights.

Because of the large influx of refugees in Europe, Open Society Foundations find it vital to develop effective policy proposals that will lead to a progressive and successful European asylum system.

Revisions under the European Agenda on Migration state that immediate action will be taken by the EU in order to prevent further deaths and improve conditions for those seeking refuge in Europe. This includes increased funding to Frontex and Europol, two organizations that focus on border control and defense of the EU, respectively.

Kelsey Lay

Sources: European Commission, Open Society Foundations, The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2, The New York Times
Photo: The Telegraph

refugees in greece
Marietta Provopoulou came home to find living conditions on her own soil worse than those of the African village in which she worked. After a decade of working with Medecins San Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, she took her work home to Greece to head MSF in Athens-mainly on the issue of migrant detention.

Upon discovering the conditions of migrant detention camps in Greece, Provopoulous commented that she didn’t even think such conditions were possible on the European continent. Further, other MSF members denounced the Greek government for its treatment of migrants, calling it a violation of national, European and international standards, and harmful to people’s health and dignity.

Greece is often utilized as an entry hub for migrants around the world- from Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Due to pressure from the European Union to halt the influx of immigrants, the ultra-conservative Greek government instituted its migration policy, Operation Xenious Zeus.

The policy was launched two years ago- a harsh policy that systematically detains refugees in Greece. According to MSF, undocumented migrants are routinely detained when apprehended on territory without valid documentation. Migrants, whose forced return does not occur within the initial detention period, are at risk for repeated detentions. The estimated number of migrants and asylum seekers in Greece’s detainment camps has exceeded 6,000.

Detention is frequently being used worldwide as a means to manage and restrict migrants and pressure them to return to their home soil. However, in most cases, particularly in Greece, the physical and mental health of detained migrants is largely neglected, if not abused.

In the MSF’s Invisible Suffering, a report on the condition of detention camps in Greece, it is noted that detainment has caused suffering directly linked to various health problems that require medical attention. Among these include scabies, dental problems, respiratory ailment, even tuberculosis. Mental illness is also a grim consequence; there have been several cases of suicide and incidents of detainees sewing their mouths shut as a form of protest.

Above all, the living conditions are inhumane and unsanitary. One such camp located on the Turkish border was described as having human excrement seeping through cracked pipes between the building’s floors. Detainees are crammed in dilapidated, perilous quarters. Suffering from overcrowding, filth and neglect, these migrants feel less than human. One young boy was recorded saying, “I have come for peace. I am not a criminal. I thought it was better for me to jump off the roof than to stay here.”

Despite recent international criticism, the Greek government is steadfast in its rigid policies. They have thus far shown no intention of loosening their tight reigns. It may take an international effort to bring humanitarian justice to Greek migrants.

– Samantha Scheetz

Sources: IPS, Medecins Sans Frontieres, The Guardian, NPR
Photo: Greek Independent News