Aid organizations in Greece claim up to one third of refugees in the country are going hungry because they are being denied food allowance due to cuts in the service.
Greek authorities are denying the claims, labeling them as “nonsense” fabricated by non-governmental organizations.
In a statement released this week, the International Rescue Committee said the hunger crisis in Greece is continuing “with figures showing that 40 percent of people living in Greek refugee camps are being denied food.”
The organization claims it’s a result of a decision by the Greek government to discontinue the provision of food to people who are not in the asylum procedure.
“There are 16,559 people living in camps across Greece, comprising people who are waiting for their asylum claims to be heard and those who have had their claims accepted or denied. It has emerged that new catering contracts for the provision of food in these camps provide enough food to feed just 10,213 people, covering only those still in the asylum procedure and not those who had their asylum claims accepted or rejected,” the IRC said in its statement.
The European Commission has called on the Greek government to ensure food is available to all people, particularly the vulnerable, irrespective of their status.
On its part, the Greek government’s migration ministry has rejected claims of a hunger crisis. Manos Logothetis, who oversees refugee reception, described the allegation as “nonsense.”
“If a hunger crisis really existed there’d be riots and protests. We are in discussion with the EU commissioner every week and have reassured her that there is no issue with food, that everyone who is supposed to receive it, including the vulnerable and incapacitated, is getting support,” Logothetis is quoted as saying in The Guardian.
Despite what the government says, IRC and other aid groups insist that a hunger crisis is brewing and that it will impact children and the most vulnerable.
The IRC says high numbers of children, who make up 40 percent of the population residing in camps, are among those going hungry.
Teachers in local primary schools have reported children turning up to school without having eaten, without even a snack to see them through the day.
“It ought to be untenable that people are being left without food in Greece, a country with the resources and the means to provide food and safety to everyone,” Dimitra Kalogeropolou, IRC Greece Director, said.
Kalogeropoulou said the IRC has been advocating for an end to this “unacceptable situation” since October 2021, when a change in Greek law meant that the government stopped providing vital services to those not in the asylum process.
“People are being pushed over the edge; local organizations on the ground witness children crying because they have not had a decent meal in days,” she said. “Quite simply, we are witnessing conditions that could amount to a hunger crisis that will have a devastating impact on vulnerable people,” Kalogeropolou said.
The director said that circumstances must change and that people who have been awarded refugee status in Greece are forced to stay in refugee camps because the lack of integration support leaves them with no way to make a living or find accommodation.
“They have nowhere else to go, and the provision of state-provided food is the only means people have to eat,” she said.
Featured image: Refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos. November 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of Steve Evans via Flickr
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