The International Rescue Committee (IRC) Hellas started operating in 2015, on the island of Lesvos, in response to the unprecedented number of refugees arriving on the island at the time. IRC Hellas is part of the international humanitarian organisation International Rescue Committee (IRC), which, since 1933, has been supporting refugees, displaced people and victims of conflict across the globe.
In 2021, our team of professionals in the field of humanitarian response was engaged in Greece on the islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos, as well as in Athens, and we provided up-to-date reliable information through Refugee.Info nationwide. On Lesvos, Chios and Samos, we provided mental health and psychosocial support services, while on Lesvos we also provided emergency assistance in the areas of water, sanitation, environmental health and COVID-19 prevention, as well as services of child protection, women’s protection and non-formal education. On Lesvos as well, early integration services via language classes and computer literacy were provided, as well as face-to-face information on services. In Athens, we provided a variety of services in the areas of child protection and labour market integration.
2021 was a difficult year, with different challenges on each area IRC Hellas operates. The new ‘Closed Controlled Access Centers’ were established on the islands of Samos, Kos and Leros in the period of September to November 2021. They are surrounded by a barbed wire fence, characterised by prison like architecture and ubiquitous digital surveillance, with restrictions to the residents. Moreover, the impact of the implementation of the 2016 EU-Turkey Statement was further compounded by a Greek Joint Ministerial Decision (JMD) in June 2021, which designated Turkey as a ‘safe third country’ for people from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Somalia, and Syria. Last but not least, the closure of Kara Tepe municipal camp οn Lesvos island left many people with vulnerabilities without dignified shelter.