Approximately 60 percent of refugees in camps in Greece do not receive food, and around 36,000 refugees do not receive the cash assistance provided by the EU, rights groups said.

A scene from an anti-racism rally in Athens on October 9, 2021, protesting the European Union's and Greek government's policies towards refugees.
A scene from an anti-racism rally in Athens on October 9, 2021, protesting the European Union's and Greek government's policies towards refugees. (LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP)

Rights organisations have accused Greek authorities of excluding refugees and asylum seekers from food and cash assistance because of tough policies and poor planning.

"Though practises differ from region to region, it is roughly estimated that 60 percent of people living in camps do not receive food in the mainland," the twenty-six organisations, including the Greek Council of Refugees and the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement on Monday.

"Among those left hungry, 25 percent are women (including pregnant women), single-headed families, 40 percent are children, chronic patients, and patients with special medical and nutritional conditions. In some places, food is not even provided to those put in quarantine due to Covid-19," they added.

And over two weeks after the Greek state took over from the UN refugee agency the task of handing out EU cash assistance to asylum seekers in Greek camps, some 36,000 people have not received their support, the organisations said.

"In an attempt to cover this gap, asylum seekers have been receiving portions of food, reportedly of very poor quality and often not fully cooked," they added.

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Responding to the claims, the migration ministry said "all asylum seekers in camps on the islands and mainland have the right to food" and received three meals daily.

But the ministry noted that this does not include refugees who "must leave" the camps, while migrants whose asylum applications have been rejected "are obliged to leave the country."

The authorities also insisted there was "no delay" in payouts to camp residents, which will be received at the end of October.

The ministry added that refugees "have the right to work and can apply for allowances for further support" including an EU-funded integration programme.

The exact number of refugees and asylum seekers currently in Greece is unclear. 

A planned nationwide census later this month is expected to help clarify the issue, the UN refugee agency's representative in Greece, Mireille Girard, said last week.

Girard said the latest estimate of refugees and asylum seekers in Greece is around 96,000.

But many asylum seekers are believed to have left the country since the current conservative government took power in 2019, cutting back benefits and axing thousands of hotel rooms used to house them.

In addition, several thousand refugees are believed to have re-applied for asylum in Germany and other EU countries, where job prospects are better than in Greece.

Many other refugees are forced to return to camps after being unable to find work and accommodation in Greece, the groups said.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies