European Refugee Crisis: Catholic Relief Services' response
A collaborative response by CRS and partners
Following an injection of UK Aid funding in October 2015, Start Network is coordinating a consortium of 17 agencies to respond to the European Refugee Crisis in Greece, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia and Serbia.
Here we look at the response by Start Network member Catholic Relief Services (CRS).
CRS is working with 10 local partners in Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Albania and Bulgaria to provide food, living supplies, shelter support, sanitation, medical care and translation services. CRS and its partners had assisted 230,000 people as of January 2016. This support is directed at those who are most vulnerable—typically women, children and the elderly—as well as those who have gone back to Athens as a result of the restriction at the northern border, and refugees and migrants who are not included in the relocation program.
In total 117,750 direct beneﬁciaries and 490,000 indirect beneﬁciaries will receive vital support from Catholic Relief Services and its local partners in the region. Activities include:
Transit camp improvement
CRS and the Macedonian Education Centre is providing infrastructure support, including paving a road to replace the muddy path to the Serbian border; improving local sewage systems; and installing video surveillance to better protect refugees and migrants, and those assisting them.
CRS and Caritas Athens is managing a service hub in Athens’ urban centre to support all vulnerable refugees including Afghans and North Africans, focusing on unaccompanied children and large families. There, they are offered services, such as hot meals, shelter, sanitation, medical care, and translation and information support. An estimated 200 people access services at this centre daily.
Clothes and supplies
Emergency relief shops at key transit points near border crossings will be stocked with winter jackets, gloves, raincoats, socks and shoes. These simple stalls at highly trafficked cross-border points, with items organized by category, will allow refugees and migrants to access critical supplies. Since people are carrying only what is essential, it is better not to provide pre-packaged kits and, instead, establish ways for people to select what they need most. Where market conditions are appropriate, especially in Athens, CRS and partners will prioritize a market-based approach—for example, the use of vouchers or cash grants that people can redeem in pre-identiﬁed shops. This allows for a larger choice of items, while stimulating the local economy and helping to mitigate tensions between the refugees/ migrants and local communities.
Specialised items and support for children and people with disabilities
An average of 100 mothers and babies, and 45 people with disabilities, pass through or need specialised support each day. Baby carriers, wheelchairs, and appropriate clothing are available at emergency relief shops and at day centres. Also available are private space for showers, and referrals to government or medical services.
Information, translation and communications services
To make information more accessible to the transient people, CRS and Caritas Athens are using multiple communication tools to inform refugees and migrants of the most current information and options. These include social media, megaphones, ﬂyers, notice boards at transit sites, and texting. In close collaboration with the Balkans Center for Migrations and Humanitarian Assistance, based in Serbia, interpreters will continue to facilitate communications among refugees and migrants, aid agencies and the government.
Photo caption: Refugees from Kunduz, Afghanistan—Fahima, Omet and Adbul Hadi—pictured in Berkasovo, Serbia, on the Croatian border. Photo by Andrew McConnell for CRS