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FAMILIES STRANDED IN FREEZING TEMPERATURES IN EUROPE


Wednesday, 11 January 2017 - 12:13pm

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More migrants and refugees are at risk of freezing to death in Europe if immediate action is not taken, Save the Children is warning after recent heavy snows and bitterly cold temperatures hit Greece and the Balkans.

So far, more than 61 people1 – including several refugees and migrants - have reportedly died in the region as a result of the Arctic weather. Children and babies are among the thousands trapped without proper access to heat and shelter in the region and are particularly vulnerable to hypothermia. Many are living in poorly equipped migrant camps, in abandoned buildings, or on snow-filled streets.

In northern Greece, an Afghan refugee froze to death in temperatures plummeting to -14C. In Bulgaria, the Ministry of Interior said that the body of a Somali woman was found frozen along the country’s southern border. Two Iraqi men were reportedly found frozen to death on Friday in a forest in South east Bulgaria.

Kirsty McNeill, Save the Children Executive Director of Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns, said: “The EU’s continued failure on the refugee crisis is leaving thousands of people, including lone children, literally out in the cold. 

"The lack of political will to offer asylum or reunify separated children and families, means these human beings, who have survived years of war, violence and deadly journeys to safety - are now freezing to death on Europe’s doorstep. 

"These men, women and children need immediate access to warm, dry shelter, no matter what country they've fled. This basic and short term measure would prevent more unnecessary loss of life, particularly when children are so susceptible to hypothermia in freezing temperatures.

"It is clear the EU’s policy has failed and there is a total inability to plan ahead. Last winter, refugees’ and migrants’ tents were sinking in mud at the informal campsite of Idomeni at the Greek border. Now tents are sinking in snow in the “formal” camps to which they were transferred. For asylum seekers, that’s about the only change they’ve seen in the past 12 months, despite endless promises. Yet, in a telltale sign of conditions back home, people continue to arrive in the Balkans, in spite of the EU’s attempts to deter, deport and detain them.”

In Greece, an average of 54 people2 continued to arrive daily in December, causing a massive build-up on the islands, where 63,000 asylum seekers3 are already stranded.

Save the Children works directly and through partner organisations in Greece, FYROM, Serbia and Croatia to provide children with psycho-social support to help them deal with traumas they experienced. We also work with pregnant women and new mothers to provide nutrition and breastfeeding support, while our shelters for unaccompanied children house children waiting to be relocated or reunified with their families elsewhere in Europe.

To arrange an interview please email media@savethechildren.org.uk or call our 24 hour media line on +44 (0) 7831 650 409.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/11/europe-cold-snap-death-toll-hits-61-as-the-poor-old-and-helpless-succumb

[2] http://reliefweb.int/report/greece/greece-data-snapshot-31-december-2016

[3] http://data.unhcr.org/mediterranean/country.php?id=83