It’s already December and the European Union member states are still dragging their feet on “Winterisation” of camps. In northern Greece, migrants have been evacuated from camps because of heavy snowfall.
Earlier this week, the European Commission’s DG Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection (ECHO) posted a UNHCR video on Facebook of the New Kavala camp. The video shows personal hygiene areas and tents that are completely exposed to the cold weather.
Asked whether the facilities are ready for this winter, DG ECHO responded to New Europe that the footage was shot at an earlier time during the autumn and that in Diavata, almost an eight hour drive away, “distribution of basic relief items and shelter upgrading interventions” are helping the refugees to prepare for the upcoming winter.
The execution of the project to support camps in preparation for extreme weather conditions is being carried out by the UNHCR. The project was announced earlier this year and is worth €25m. “Fifty thousand refugees will benefit in 15 sites from technical and material assistance (such as sleeping mats, blankets, clothing, hygiene kits, rain poncho, socks, kitchen sets, soaps, solar lamps), water, sanitation and hygiene assistance in temporary accommodations, protection assistance with emphasis on unaccompanied or separated children,” the European Commission says describing the project.
“Priority has been given to the north and west of the country, as it gets much colder there,” added DG ECHO, the same day that photos were released in the media of the Greek army evacuating the Petra camp due to heavy snowfall.
Meanwhile, Greek migration minister, Giannis Mouzalas, appeared to not be informed about the incident at the northern Greece Petra camp. He was in Brussels for DG ECHO’s meeting with migration partners, government officials and NGOs.
Speaking in Brussels, Mouzalas later suggested that the events had been misrepresented in the press but acknowledged the problem, admitting that “NGOs might sometimes act slow, but the Greek administration is even slower.”
“We need new tools, we can’t go by the book on a crisis like this,” added Mouzalas, suggesting that Greece’s working model was found through trial and error.
Shelter for unaccompanied migrant children
As for unaccompanied migrant children, Mouzalas excluded the building of units capable of housing 20 to 30 children, thought to be the best environment for unaccompanied minors. Mouzalas suggested that it is impossible to build the required amount of housing units needed for all 1000 children.
“Units of 60-70 unaccompanied children might make you feel strange,” he told NGOs, “but we will build them together. These units together with the camps’ safe zones [an option that the EU institutions did not initially approve], will offer less to children, but will help them regain dignity, compared to their stay at camps with those mixes, difficult populations.”