The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR has started to roll out the delivery of winter clothes, sleeping bags and thermal blankets to 38,000 asylum-seekers on Greek mainland and the islands. This is part of the efforts across the humanitarian sector to prepare the sites where refugees and migrants live for the early onset of winter, coordinated by the Ministry of Interior – Migration Policy (MoMP). «By the end of October,» says UNHCR Assistant Representative Operations Giovanni Lepri, «every site countrywide should be reached. By then, all refugees and migrants in urgent need on all the formal sites should be covered by the distribution through NGO partners.»
With funding from the European Commission – Humanitarian Aid and donations from the fashion companies Uniqlo and Falke, UNHCR trucks have left UNHCR warehouses in Attica, Northern Greece and on the islands to deliver 38,000 thermal blankets and 38,000 sleeping bags, but also winter clothing to refugees and migrants. The distribution will comprise rain ponchos, pairs of leggings, winter socks and beanies. In total, UNHCR will at least deliver over 200,000 items for winter. «In the event that we discover specific gaps that our stock cannot fill, we will coordinate with other humanitarian organizations how best to address this», explains UNHCR’s Lepri.
The distribution will be carried out by the non-governmental organizations ARSIS, Danish Refugee Council, Elpida Home, the International Rescue Committee, Norwegian Refugee Council, Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse, Solidarity Now, several volunteers organizations as well as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies/Hellenic Red Cross.
The delivery of this aid will complement ongoing efforts of several humanitarian organizations and the authorities to find alternatives to tents such as hotels at special rates. UNHCR is moving vulnerable people such as persons with serious health problems from tented sites to buildings or prefab houses. Some 900 of these residential containers are currently rushed to eight of the over 40 government-run sites. In addition, UNHCR is working on infrastructural upgrades such as heating solutions on some 15 sites assigned to UNHCR by the MoMP to make them fit for winter.
Given the difficult living conditions for asylum-seekers on some of the sites that are not suitable for winter, UNHCR reiterates its call on the Greek authorities and the European governments to further speed up the relocation of asylum-seekers to other countries as promised.
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