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Visiting Greece Again After 1.5 Years

After more than 1.5 years in which the SAO team Switzerland was unable to travel to Greece and visit the Day Centres in Athens and on Lesvos due to the pandemic, we travelled to Greece for two weeks in October. Here you can read about the achievements of our teams in the field in the last months and the latest developments of the refugee situation in Greece.


The teams of SAO Switzerland and Bashira Centre on Lesvos.


It was a very nice, eagerly awaited reunion with the long-standing staff members in Greece and we were finally able to get to know the new staff members personally, whom we had previously only known from online meetings. We had a lot of time to talk and share, both in groups and individually, and learned much about how our teams in the Amina Centre and Bashira Centre perceive the current situation.


Optimised strategies thanks to big Challenges

We are proud of the impressive work our staff is doing on the field. Very good strategies have emerged from all the challenges of the past months. The changeover from open centres to telephone and internet support during the lockdowns has been mastered very well by our staff and they have tackled the occurring difficulties with a great deal of professionalism and creativity. Now, the centres are open again with certain restrictions and at the same time, the successful remote support will be maintained in the future. This way, women can continue to be supported, even if they do not have the opportunity to visit our centres for any reason.


At least improved infrastructural conditions in the camp on Lesvos

On Lesvos, we were able to exchange ideas with staff from other local organisations. We see a positive development in the refugee camp Mavorouni, where most of the tents have been replaced by living containers. By the end of November, there are said to be only containers and no tents. This will significantly improve the situation for the remaining 4,000 people in the coming winter. The sanitary installations have also improved, according to our beneficiaries.


New Problem : Hunger!

Two groups of camp residents are no longer on the list for food distribution in the camp and therefore no longer receive nutrition: On the one hand, these are people who have received asylum and have not yet been able to leave to the mainland for bureaucratic or financial reasons; on the other hand, this also affects camp residents with multiple rejections of their asylum application.

For this reason, our team at the Bashira Centre is increasingly handing out supermarket coupons to affected women. With these coupons, we enable our beneficiaries to decide for themselves what they need and what they want to buy, rather than being allocated certain foods. SAO is currently the only organisation on Lesvos working with this system of free choice. Nevertheless, we welcome the initiative of many partner organisations to prevent the affected from hunger.

In addition to this practical help, our teams at both the Bashira Centre on Lesvos and the Amina Centre in Athens continue to provide psychosocial support. As the camps on the islands are being "emptied", our team in Athens has a particularly high number of active cases at the moment, as every Bashira beneficiary automatically has access to all services at the Amina Centre. This is in line with the SAO sustainability principle.


It is impressive to see how professionally and diligently our teams carry out their important work in supporting displaced women. We return from Greece with a lot of new energy and ideas and will continue to do our best to support our local staff to the maximum.

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