In times of conflict, families flee for their lives and many, particularly children, can end up alone and without access to the help they need.
Since January 2015 more than a million refugees have made the difficult journey to Europe. Eighty per cent of these were from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and 90,000 were unaccompanied children. Europe has struggled to cope with the influx and has been divided about the best way to resettle the refugees, leaving many feeling trapped, vulnerable and alone. Share in your group your understanding of the current crisis in Europe.
With my voice I cry to the Lord; with my voice I make supplication to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. When my spirit is faint, you know my way. In the path where I walk they have hidden a trap for me. Look on my right hand and see – there is no one who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for me.
I cry to you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.’ Give heed to my cry, for I am brought very low. Save me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me. Bring me out of prison, so that I may give thanks to your name. The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me.
Article by Rebecca Boardman, USPG Refugee Response Facilitator, working with the Anglican Chaplaincy in Greece.
USPG has been working with the Anglican Chaplaincy in Greece since 2015 to provide practical and logistical support for its refugee work. This has involved supporting rescue teams for refugees who land on the Greek islands and providing aid and legal advice for refugees gathered in Athens.
The closure of the northern borders of Greece left 54,000 refugees stranded in the country (as of June 2016). Many have seriously inadequate support, including 22,000 children. It is unclear whether they will be able be relocate to other European countries.
No-one was prepared for this situation and, in the middle of its deepest recession in modern times, Greece does not have the resources to respond. There is a critical shortage of suitable accommodation, and thousands are living in overcrowded centres and camps where they are vulnerable to smugglers and traffickers.
Refugee support organisations estimate the refugees will require significant assistance for years to come.
In order to take the burden off Greece, in September 2015 the European Commission Council established an emergency relocation scheme to move 66,400 refugees to other ‘allocated’ European nations by 2017. The processes for asylum, relocation and family reunification are very slow and complicated so, despite a push to accelerate the process, in June 2016, eight months after the process was started only 881 refugees had been relocated.
In the meantime, all the others can do is wait. Unable to plan for the future, it is perhaps understandable that tensions sometimes run high.
The churches in Athens are working together to tackle this challenge head on. Through the shared belief that the ‘guests’ in our midst must be seen and valued as individuals, we are committed to caring for all who seek our help.
The Salvation Army, in Athens, is offering Greek lessons to refugees. These are led by USPG-funded translator Arash. Arash and the church are also helping to provide reliable information to help reduce people’s vulnerability to trafficking.
USPG also funds Lighthouse Relief, which is providing refugee children and mothers with safe spaces. Time is made for children to have fun, for example by screening family-friendly films.
O God, you know the difficulties we each face,
You know when we feel trapped and alone.
Help us to remember that you love us and will never abandon us.
May we work with you to bind up the broken-hearted,
And set the captives free, and proclaim freedom to the prisoner.
That all may know they are loved and are not alone.