As temperatures fall below freezing in parts of Europe, SOS Children’s Villages is stepping up to help protect refugees, especially children, from harsh weather conditions.
“The situation is very difficult and especially dangerous for children. Power outages, freezing temperatures, snow and freezing rain have hampered access to some refugee camps and created very hazardous conditions for all those in temporary shelters,” said George Protopapas, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages (SOS) Greece.
Child walking in the snow at the Schisto refugee camp near Athens.
In countries such as Greece, Serbia, Hungary and other European countries with high refugee populations, SOS has created emergency programs to protect child refugees and their families.
"The severe weather is putting hundreds of refugees who are not living in formal shelters in extreme danger," said Vesna Mrakovic-Jokanovic, the national director of SOS Serbia. "Many of the government’s 16 reception and asylum centers are already filled to capacity, and there is an urgent need for food supplies. With sub-freezing weather forecast to continue, we are particularly concerned about unaccompanied minors who are living outdoors or in makeshift camps."
SOS Children’s Villages helps refugee children in Preševo.
In Greece, SOS emergency response teams are working across five refugee camps in Lesvos and other areas in the country where refugees are being temporarily housed. At the Kara Tepe refugee camp in Lesvos, for example, SOS Greece has partnered with local organizations to provide safe and warm housing to unaccompanied refugee children.
Despite the freezing temperatures, refugees continue to take the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to Europe. The United Nations Refugee Agency reports that 3,051 refugees have landed on Europe's shores already this year, with most of them arriving in Italy and Greece. In 2016, more than 360,000 refugees arrived to Europe by sea. The country with the highest number of refugees in Europe is Syria.
“In many cases families are living in tents or temporary structures that lack insulation or heat. [We have] responded whenever possible to provide heated shelter for at-risk children and families,” said Mr. Protopapas, National Director of SOS Greece. “And we continue to focus on our core response of providing child-friendly spaces, shelter for unaccompanied minors, family re-unification support and psychological care for vulnerable children.”
Since 2015, SOS Greece has reached more than 76,000 children and adults through its Emergency Response Program, including providing temporary homes to child refugees who have been separated from their parents.
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