We have let the camp residents and other NGOs know that we will be leaving Alexandreia at the end of June.
We’ve invested so much time and energy supporting refugees at Alexandreia that this wasn’t an easy decision for us as an organisation. But as always, when there has been a difficult decision to make – and it’s in the nature of what we do that we’ve faced a lot of difficult decisions – we have asked ourselves the same question: what is the best thing to do for the refugees?
Conditions are much better
Since we’ve been working in Alexandreia April last year we’ve seen a complete transformation on the camp. People are are no longer living in tents but air-conditioned ISO containers with fridges and cookers. They now have a lot of clothing. They have been receiving cash since January to spend on food locally that was increased last month. The camp is calm and settled. Critically, people are moving on as they work their way through the asylum process.
As an organisation that focuses on food and clothing in a crisis, it’s become clear that we faced a choice. Either to change what we offer to other essential services like medical care, legal services, housing or training and education; or go to another crisis spot.
There are limits to our capacity
Our shop, boutique and kitchen are a big help to the residents but the reality is we have limited funds and management capacity. We are a volunteer run organisation relying on private donations and small grants to deliver a costly operation.
Meanwhile, refugees in other locations are in much greater need. We know that our donors and our volunteers want us to work where the need is greatest and where as an organisation we can make the greatest difference.
The EU has only relocated about 10,000 of the 30,000 refugees that the EU said it would. There are refugees still living in appalling conditions in Greece. And if we want to look more globally, there are 60 million refugees and internally displaced people many of who need help.
Independence is at the heart of dignity.
How we provide the aid – with dignity – is just as important as what we give.
We believe it is our responsibility to promote and encourage independent living when there is no longer a crisis of food and clothing. We have done that with the regular consultation, support of other NGOs, refugee-run cafeteria, bread ovens and community kitchen.
To continue operating volunteer-run services at Alexandreia would create more harm than good.
We believe this is the right thing to do for both the refugees across Greece as well as for those at Alexandreia. So we will still be working in Filippiada where things are beginning to settle. LM Village is exactly where we want to be: making a valuable and immediate impact to a group of people in need. And we will be at Katsikas when that opens to around 500 refugees in August.
We are always considering other places we are being asked to help.
To all of you who worked at Alexandreia or donated – you’ve made a critical difference to the lives of people who had little or nothing. As a measure of that, we have only had positive feedback from the residents. Not everyone is happy about it but they understand it and they understand that we were vital to their wellbeing over the last year.