How we're helping refugees in Greece | ActionAid UK

Thousands of lifejackets piled up on the beach. Traumatised children walking for miles to register with the authorities. Tiny rucksacks, holding all of a woman's worldly possessions. These are the images that will stay with me after returning from the Greek island of Lesvos, where thousands of refugees are arriving in flimsy boats every day. 

A refugee child walks amongst lifejackets on the beach in Lesvos
A refugee child walks amongst lifejackets on the beach in Lesvos

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I was in Lesvos as part of a humanitarian assessment team with colleagues from ActionAid Greece. Lesvos, which has a normal population of 80,000, has received 122,400 people this year alone. We saw families with babies and toddlers, people with disabilities, elderly people and children travelling alone, all arriving in dangerously overcrowded and unseaworthy boats.

Refugees on the beaches between Eftalou and Sikaminia

69% of the arrivals in Greece are Syrian, who can no longer face the barrel bombs and shelling in the war that has claimed an estimated 240,000 lives.  

Refugees on the beaches between Eftalou and Sikaminia

 This young family is originally from Ghouta, Syria, a town that was attacked by chemical weapons. We can't use their names. The mother is 21 years old and the father is 28, and they were cradling their eight month-old baby and two year-old toddler. 

A Syrian family wait on the roadside to be processed by the Greek authorities

They travelled with the husband's brother, who is 26. He was arrested in his home, and jailed for five months. He doesn't know why, since he was never put on trial

The family stayed in a camp near Istanbul in Turkey for a year and a half to earn money to pay for the trip to Europe. The men were working as carpenters, and made 15 dollars per day. Once they had scraped together the money, they made the dangerous journey to Lesvos. Their mother told us she was afraid for the lives of her children, as the traffickers loaded the dinghy with too many people and it started sinking during the journey

The family have made it to Greece, but their passports were taken away and now they have no documentation. This will make the process to claim asylum much more difficult and lengthy. 

Like all parents, they just want to provide a good future for their children. The father told us that he wants his children to have an education, so that they can become lawyers or doctors and have a good life. 

We want to make this hope become a reality, for this family and the thousands of others. We are launching a humanitarian aid programme for refugees on Lesvos, to support some of the most vulnerable women and children through this crisis in the weeks and months to come. 

We plan to provide women-friendly spaces and information, guidance and support for refugees arriving on the island. You can help us provide the support that these people desperately need.