Budapest/Geneva, 20 April 2018 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is warning that a sharp rise in the number of people arriving in Greece from Turkey could signal the start of a summer emergency.
More than 1,000 people have made the dangerous journey by foot from western Turkey to north east Greece, crossing the major Evros river, since March. More than 100 people have arrived every day this week.
Head of the IFRC in Greece, Ruben Cano, said:
“We’re seeing a significant increase in the number of people making this long and dangerous journey across a river and the majority are women and children.
“There are pregnant women and elderly people among those attempting to cross. And if they do make it, they arrive exhausted and with almost nothing.
“This is not the route most people take to reach Greece – it’s a worrying development. The summer will see river levels drop which could also lead to a further rise in people braving the journey.”
The Hellenic Red Cross and IFRC are preparing to provide essential supplies like sleeping bags, blankets and nappies for babies and young children. When people arrive in the Evros area of Greece, the nearest medical centre is 35 km away while the nearest hospital is 150km.
The closest official registration centre, in nearby Fylakio, is already overwhelmed which means those arriving to Evros have to make their own way to Thessaloniki to register – 430km away.
Cano said: “We have a team heading to the area as we fear many people are trying to find help on foot somewhere between Evros and Thessaloniki.
“We don’t know exactly what has caused this sudden change but we’re preparing for this to become more serious.”
More than 500,000 people arrived in Greece between 2015 and 2016, mainly via the sea crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios and Kos.