Members of the Hellenic Red Cross prepare supplies for distributionMany refugees and migrants escaping violence and economic hardship due to conflict and instability at home will find themselves in Greece after crossing the Mediterranean by boat.

There are approximately 65,000 refugees in Greece, and around 15,000 of those are in camps on the Greek islands, where conditions are extremely challenging.

Canadian Pam Riley is currently working as the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) Regional Field Coordinator for the Greek islands, she took a moment to update us about the current situation.

As Regional Field Coordinator, Pam is responsible for four islands, Lesbos, Chios, Samos and Kos. Pam works alongside the Hellenic Red Cross and other National Societies who are responding to the refugee crisis, this includes coordination with other humanitarian workers to make sure help is efficient and cooperative. She is also working with the Hellenic Red Cross to help build its capacity in local branches for responding to disasters and emergencies. Pam’s role also includes working with the IFRC team to adjust programs based on evolving needs.

Conditions are difficult for those living in camps. 15,000 people are living on the Greek islands, and camps are crowded. The arrival of winter has presented new challenges.

“So many were living in tents during the harsh winter conditions felt in Greece this year,” Pam said.

Refugees in Greece are from many countries, fleeing complex situations at home. “More than 50% of all arrivals are economic migrants from Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Congo, Iran, Pakistan, and others.”

Besides providing medical care and helping keep people warm during the cold weather, the Red Cross is helping to provide psychosocial support, “Many have been here for 10 months and still don’t know what will happen to them. This is causing tension in the camps and [refugees] are feeling helpless. This is why we are running psychosocial support to help the migrants focus on normal activities, like playing football and watching movies.”

Pam’s role in Greece is made possible thanks to the Government of Canada.