Severe cold and heavy snow storms swept across Greece for much of January, dramatically intensifying challenges faced by refugees and migrants, deteriorating living conditions and causing infrastructural damage in a number of sites. The Aegean islands, particularly Lesvos and Samos, suffered extreme weather. Conditions greatly deteriorated due to overcrowding and sub-standard shelter in the two Reception and Identification Centres (RICs) of Moria and Vathy. On January 10, a State of Emergency linked to the cold temperatures was announced for the Evros region in the North East.
Improving living conditions for refugees and migrants continued to be the number one priority for humanitarian actors in Greece. UNHCR actively supported the Greek Government, under the coordination of the Ministry for Migration Policy (MoMP), in moving people to improved accommodation, and intensified efforts to install prefabricated houses, heaters, and distribute winter core relief items such as blankets, sleeping bags, winter clothes, and footwear both in the mainland and at the islands.
The Greek government estimated some 62,401 refugees and migrants were staying in 40 state-run sites and UNHCR accommodation, including 47,426 on the mainland and 14,975 on the Aegean islands.
UNHCR, directly and through partners, distributed over 28,000 Core Relief Items to nearly 13,000 people on five islands and three sites on the mainland, in January 2017. Since early October, UNHCR has delivered over 360,000 essential items, including for winter on seven islands and 47 sites across Greece.
On mainland Greece, works were completed in the 15 sites the Government assigned to UNHCR for winter preparedness. Tents in eight of the sites were replaced with prefabricated houses and two were evacuated completely.
On the islands, UNHCR continued to provide improved accommodation, winter kits, and installed heaters and insulation. Across Greece, over 4,000 people had been accommodated in 783 pre-fabricated houses in an ongoing effort to upgrade shelter in sites.
Under its humanitarian response to winter, UNHCR assisted authorities in the transfer of 1,400 people from the Greek Islands to improved shelter on the mainland and UNHCR’s Relocation and Accommodation Scheme. Countrywide, a total of 25,112 people had benefitted from UNHCR accommodation by the end of January and
19,129 places were available.