Earlier this year the Greek government quarantined a refugee camp on the mainland, home to 2300 people, after 20 residents tested positive for COVID-19. Greece’s Ministry of Migration announced that movement from the Ritsona camp would be heavily restricted and monitored by police, Aljazeera reported.
The measures came as authorities tested dozens of people in the camp after a woman, who had been living there, was found to have the infection when she gave birth in a nearby hospital – the first recorded case of a refugee contracting coronavirus in Greece.
Across the country, ordinary citizens started pulling together to set up food banks and shelters, many to cater for both locals and migrants. Sarah* was one of those working with refugees in Greece when health officials were investigating the source of the infection. She had spent some years in the holding facility in Athens serving with her family. She and her husband James* have devoted their lives to serving migrants in Greece, helping them to find peace and comfort in their times of trouble.
“Soon we had the problem of food supplies to many families” Sarah said. “Most of them were single men and women, migrants and older people who had no social support or access to these services. We were able to care for them because we had received some donations before the virus set in, not knowing it would happen this way”.
Sarah said she, James and another volunteer mustered the courage to get out and buy vegetables, chickens and chocolate for the children, and started distribution.
“Two cars, two persons per car, was the maximum number allowed. So we started going door to door with a list of people who needed help – one vehicle served the Arabic speaking families and the other for Kurdish and Farsi. Each time we got to a door, we would wait for someone to come out and get the things. It always came with genuine joy, testimonies, tears, prayers, thankfulness and family love,” she said.
The project had a temporary shutdown of their regular outreach to run humanitarian and integrational programmes for migrants for over two months.
“Our team equally provided advisory and legal services online. James and a small team visited the people at the beginning but during the quarantine, support was through phone calls, in smaller groups on Zoom, sharing with them and providing legal assistance by phone.”
But some could not use Zoom because of internet problems in the camps. Now their office has reopened for face-to-face help, Sarah said they are trying to maintain social distancing and other health measures to curb the spread of the virus. But the big challenge is in the multiple number of people they serve, which brings a need for more personnel, office space and facilities.
Sarah would love to see more refugees receiving vital practical and emotional support, and brought into relationship with Christians who can show and share Jesus with them.
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