Greece/Macedonia: “Refugees sleep outside in minus 2°”

Published on Monday 11 January 2016

Marie Fanget is a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program manager of the emergency team. Back from the Greece-Macedonian border, she remains strongly impacted by the urgent needs of the thousands of blocked refugees at this crossing point.

For years, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL’s teams have been giving particular attention to migrants fleeing towards Europe. In June, the organization urgently intervened at the La Lande site in Calais to construct badly needed showers and toilets. A team also left for Serbia and Macedonia in September to evaluate migrant needs. Since November, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL teams have been assessing migrant needs on the border of Greece and Macedonia as winter and plummeting temperature settle in.


Rania, stuck on the border between Greece and Macedonia, is calling for help.

“I will never forget the days spent here”

Marie Fanget, WASH program manager for the emergency team, came back a few days ago from the border of Greece and Macedonia, where thousands of refugees are stuck on site in complete destitution. “Only Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghans can cross the border. For the others (Iranians, Somalis, Pakistanis…), the door is closed. Therefore, the luckiest families sleep in tents. The others, although it’s minus 2° at night, sleep outside. The most urgent needs to address are, in order of priority: blankets, warm clothes and the basics for keeping clean (soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste).” During the needs assessment, our team coordinator was particularly marked by Rania*, a little girl who brought us a picture. On the box that Rania holds in her hands, a few words are written: “I am a child and I will never forget the days spent here. The noise of these thousands of people coughing in the camp is indelibly printed on my memory. The babies’ cries from early morning … I will never forget them.

greece refugees

Thousands of refugees blocked at the border between Greece and Macedonia

Summer, winter, the situation has changed

For Christopher Vavasseur, Desk Officer at SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL, the refugees’ needs are huge, in part due to winter: “This summer, during our evaluations, the borders were not blocked yet. The refugees only stopped a few hours to rest and left quickly. With the nice temperatures, needs weren’t very high: water, a little food, electricity to recharge cell phones, which are their only link with their dispersed families. Today, the situation has changed. Thousands of women, men and children have left with the bare minimum, arrived in Greece from Turkey and are blocked at the border with Macedonia where few organizations take care of them. They need water, food, the basics for hygiene, but also warm clothes: sweaters, underwear, socks, blankets… We can’t leave them without help. Our mandate bounds us to immediately provide them support.”

*the name has been modified

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