black and whire image of people standing in front of small tents

Greek government quietly withdraws cashcards to leave 25,000 refugees at risk

On Thursday 15th April, the Secretary General of Migration and Asylum, Mr. Manos Logothetis, put out a low key press release on the department’s website. A few tweaks here and there to refugee funding means anyone not living in state accommodation will lose access to a cashcard on 1 July 2021. This decision by the populist right-wing government is catastrophic and the refugee worker community is extremely anxious.

The UNHCR give a conservative estimate of 25,000 people currently in flats paid for out of their cashcards or funded by small charities like CRIBS International. For families unable to access charitable accommodation and/or the support of cash cards it can mean overcrowding, bedbugs, no hot water, sleeping in corridors or balconies (and paying for it).  This payment may come in the form of systematic rape or slave labour. Food comes from solidarity kitchens and sometimes from market bins. This is really bad but it is about to get so much worse. This is going to fall apart.

Without a cash card, these 25,000 people (at least) will no longer have any money to pay their rent or buy food. Small charities, like CRIBS, are already full to the brim and have extensive waiting lists of desperate families. We can’t help. The solidarity kitchens are stretched to breaking point too.

What is going to happen?

Come the 1st July (the start of the holiday season) refugees will run out of money. Evictions will increase and landlords will rent their properties on AirBnB for a whole lot more. The streets of Athens will be packed with hungry, thirsty, refugees.

25,000 people will be hard to hide in the city but less so in the rural country and mountains – of which there is an abundance of in Greece. The EU has just agreed to give €250m of funding for five new structures on the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Kos and Leros. A word of caution though, this Greek government has never been too worried about where EU refugee money is spent. The camps will be in the middle of nowhere. Current rules mean that only registered organisations can work in the camps. Registering an NGO in Greece is virtually, and deliberately, impossible. Even the EU has been so bold as to criticise the Greek NGO registration process.

The police will round up homeless people, just as they have done all winter in the capital’s Victoria Square. This is a well-known gathering spot for homeless people and close to many NGO centres. The authorities will bus people to camps where it is illegal to send out photographs of conditions. We have seen these conditions and they amount to food crawling with maggots, no water for washing, snakes, mosquitoes, overheating, suicides, minimal – if any – education. We know this will happen and, like before, calls for action when desperation increases will be ignored. No scrutiny, no problem. Things are going to swiftly go from bloody awful to unimaginable.

As ever, we say what can we do? We will continue to make things a bit better for a small number of people. But the political backdrop has just been painted a far darker colour, and our task has become much harder.

Please help

At present our amazing donors and volunteer team are providing housing and support to 17 families. Nine of these are without cashcards and receive no state support so CRIBS provides a monthly stipend to cover family living expenses. Eight of our families are currently accessing state funds via their cash card and so CRIBS does not need to contribute towards their family living expenses.

  • We are currently paying £1,736 per month in family living expenses.
  • When the eight families lose their cash card income in July, we will need to find an additional £1,215 per month.
  • Yearly this is an increase of 67.5% (from £20,834 to £34,897) at a minimum. In reality with other emergency payments e.g. medications that we currently cover for non-cashcard families it will be more than that.

Another huge impact will be that it will become even more difficult to move families away from CRIBS accommodation and into independent living once their baby reaches 12 months old. At present, our families with cashcards are able to save towards a deposit and rent – our families without a cashcard rely on our Moving On grant (capped at 750 Euros) to cover this. Even with the Moving On grant we recognise that with no income it is impossible to cover rents and we fear that our families may end up living on the streets and in parks. This is not safe for anybody, let alone a small child.

We are already planning the following measures:

  • Advising families with cashcards to save for when the cashcard ceases.
  • Reassuring them that we will all do our very best to support them.
  • Taking steps to source food supplies and community kitchens that our families can access.
  • Decided not to rent any further accommodation and to stop any expansion plans to address the overwhelming demand for housing from pregnant women and those with new-borns who are forced to live in precarious and dangerous situations.

This isn’t enough and we really need your help. Please can you consider a one off or regular donation to CRIBS for our Mayday Appeal? Use the link below to help bridge the cash card gap over the next year. If you are a UK tax payer, please select the giftaid option. Thank you.

Donate now, support CRIBS families