Greek government has cut off food access to thousands of migrants, monitor says

Greek government has cut off food access to thousands of migrants, monitor says
With the Greek government cutting food aid for many migrants and stopping them from working, the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor has warned of an increasingly dangerous food crisis at a migrant centre of the island of Lesvos.
2 min read
20 July, 2023
The crisis is gripping the Mavrovouni migrant centre on Lesvos [Getty]

The Greek government is leaving thousands denied asylum seekers and recognised refugees unable to access food and other basic means of subsistence, the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor warned on Tuesday.

On 17 May, the Greek government announced that it would only provide food in the Mavrovouni Closed Controlled Access Centre on Lesvos to those seeking asylum. Greek authorities said recognised refugees and those denied asylum or refugee status, including the most vulnerable, would no longer be provided with food.

With no time to prepare and with very limited options to procure food, many in the centre are now at immediate risk of food insecurity, the Euro-Med Monitor said in its statement Tuesday.

Many of those migrants who exist outside the asylum system or have been denied asylum or refugee status do not have the legal right to work, trapping them in a limbo that now includes hunger.

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"As those whose asylum applications have been rejected are unable to benefit from any state aid and, without papers, are also not allowed to work regularly, the decision to deny them access to food and water effectively places them outside the system in complete invisibility," the Euro-Med Monitor statement said.

"There, they become easy prey to violent abuse and are in danger of recruitment by criminal organisations that exploit their struggle to survive," the statement added.

The statement points out that this is not the first time that migrants, refugees and asylum seekers have been plunged into a food crisis in Greece.

In 2021, 60% of all mainland camp residents faced food insecurity, while in December of last year, a series of cuts to state-subsidised help for the Greek government led to overcrowding of camps that meant a widespread lack of access to food and water.

Euro-Med blamed the anti-migrant ideology of Greece’s government and in Europe in general for the crisis.

Michela Pugliese, a legal researcher with the NGO, said: "The problem is not that there is not enough food around but that Greece is consciously removing access to available food for these people, contributing to social exclusion and discrimination, and only for political reasons."