An estimate of at least 3,600 refugees live in poor conditions in abandoned Olympic stadiums and old airports in Athens. Many of them come from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Syria, and are now left in the Elliniko camp in Greece. The Elliniko camp consists of three sites, which are the baseball and hockey stadiums and the arrival hall in the deserted airport.
Inside the hockey stadium, large mounds of rubbish dot the corridors and dirty water oozes from under the washrooms’ doors. Lack of heat or air-conditioning mean it is cold at night and stifling during the day. The conditions are said to be very poor, and that access for NGOs or the media is rare.
The United Nations honours World Refugee Day on Monday. However according to recent news report by Aljazeera, many refugees are struggling with overcrowding, unsanitary food and a lack of access to medical services.
At the moment more than 57,000 refugees and migrants are stuck in Greece due to Macedonia’s border closure in March, following an agreement between the European Union and Turkey to send many of those fleeing war and economic devastation back to Turkey.
Residents of the camp have said that access to better healthcare and better sanitary living conditions could prevent the spread of illness in Elliniko. In April, a 17 year old Afghan girl, who had in the past suffered from rheumatic fever, died in the camp. This has now prompted residents to accuse the government of being partially responsible, as the conditions have not been maintained and there is still no sign that the government is planning to improve them.
Yiannis Mouzalas, an immigration policy minister, was quoted by a recent Aljazeera news report claiming that the government is planning to evict refugees from Elliniko.
“Conditions at Elliniko are not unsuitable, but they are not good and certainly not the conditions we should have for refugees and migrants,” he said.
Reflecting on the government efforts to improving living conditons, Stella Nanou from UNCHR suggested that Ellinikos three sites need to be improved “”or there needs to be new solutions for accommodation”.
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