By Mimi Hapig
Since 2016, people within the Greek asylum procedure have been receiving a monthly financial allowance to be able to buy food and essential items, such as clothes and hygiene products. Back in the days, we very much welcomed the change from serving food to providing financial support. Being able to manage one‘s own budget, albeit a small one, means being able to make one’s own decisions. The questions of what food to buy and what meals to cook with it — but also whether to buy other items such as soap, toothpaste, shaving foam, sanitary towels, nappies or contraceptives — is something that each person should really be allowed to answer for themselves.
People who have received a positive decision in their asylum case and people whose claim has been rejected twice lose this financial support almost immediately. Read more about this in one of our previous articles.
The amount of financial support people receive has changed throughout the past years. The most recent amounts people in Katsikas refugee camp had been receiving looked as follows: 150 Euro per individual above 18, 270 Euro for a couple or parent with a child, 320 Euro for a family of three or 420 Euro for a family of four or more.* The transfer of this financial allowance was always done at the beginning of a month.
Throughout the years, several major, international organisations have been in charge of this important task, from Mercy Corps in 2016 and 2017, to UNHCR until very recently. In autumn 2021, the Greek state wanted to take the reins on the monthly distribution of funds itself. Instead of upholding the running system and disbursing the money at the beginning of the month — as all the organisation had done — the state authorities decided to make the financial support available only at the end of each month. This change in schedule resulted in an initial gap in financial assistance between early September, when the last transfer was made under the UNHCR-managed system, until the end of October, when the first transfer by the Greek state was to be made. The challenge of bridging the month of October without savings was grim enough in itself. To help bridge this gap, food distribution was provided in the form of pre-cooked meals in plastic containers for which people had to queue each day. Suddenly having to queue again for pre-cooked meals, not having money for essential items or services, such as nappies for your children, or for the bus to the city centre, translates to a loss of time, freedom of choice and thus a piece of human dignity.
What really rendered anybody observing the developments speechless, however, was the fact that even at the end of October, no money transfers were made — and food distribution was nevertheless stopped. At this moment it is entirely unclear when people will receive money and if they are going to receive any money retrospectively for the month of October at all; a transfer is expected at the end of November which may only be the amount for the month of November. Even this announcement can be questioned though. Several days ago, on 1 November, the Greek government has published a tender for organisations to take over the task of money transfers again.**
These developments beg many questions: Will people living in camps be left lacking essential items until a solution is found? How is it possible that children and adults within the asylum procedure in a European country go hungry, due to bureaucratic hurdles or political strategies? And where did the money go that was made available to the Greek government for the purpose of distribution by the European Commission? All these questions will probably be lost, unanswered in the indifference of the political arena of our continent. But we hope they will not fall on deaf ears. If you wish, take action in different ways, sharing this article to raise awareness, directly supporting asylum seekers in your region, asking politicians from your region to address the situation, or supporting projects like Habibi.Works.