Greece prepares to host tens of thousands of Ukrainians
Evangelo Sipsas in Greece
The Russian invasion of Ukraine continues for over a month now, with more than 3.5 million citizens leaving the country. Most of them have fled to neighboring countries, such as Poland, Romania, and Moldova. But some are continuing further on, with many arriving to Greece, where authorities have prepared a shipping-style container camp for those arriving from Ukraine near the Bulgarian border.
The reception center made up of blue containers has opened a few kilometers away from the Greek-Bulgarian border, offering those making the perilous journey to Greece a safe space away from war.
"Ever since the war in Ukraine happened, the ministry of migration has set up a reception office near the border with Bulgaria which is open 24 hours with staff from the nearby camps. Once they enter we provide them with pamphlets with numbers they may need, we give the cellphone cards, we provide them with any information they might need. We provide them with snacks, a warm meal, and an area where they can charge their cellphones. Generally, we give them a first glimpse of what is going on in the country, where they can stay and we also let them know that if they have nowhere to go, there is a camp a few kilometers from the border where they can stay as long as needed," Vasilis Nikiforou Reception and Identification manager of Kleidi center, said.
Most of those arriving in Greece from Ukraine come through the Greek-Bulgarian border crossing of Promachonas, where they are welcomed by Ukrainian consulate staff who help them to register. The majority of those arriving in Greece have relatives and friends to host them, but for those that don't, camps are being set up.
Just 5 kilometers from the border is the container camp of Kleedi, ready to host over 500 refugees. It's set up to accommodate arrivals for a few days.
The camp is made up of a number of blue and white air-conditioned containers, each with about 5 beds, enough to host most families. And since many arriving are minors, there's a playground to help them live like any other children their age.
Although the camp is empty for the moment, Vasillis says that everything is ready to accommodate those in need.
"Everything is ready, from blankets to pillows, a first aid kit, toothpaste, toothbrushes, everything they need for their hygiene as well as heating, air-conditioning, fridges and anything else they need. And for our little friends, there is a playground and computers, but we are also planning activities with educators so the children can feel more comfortable and just feel like kids. We also provide translators around the clock to help the communication between the staff of the camp and the refugees, but also to get the know all the demands they have in order to make their stay as normal as possible," Nikiforou said.
The Greek migration ministry, says that the country can accommodate 30,000 people from Ukraine, and thousands of beds are immediately available in unoccupied camps.