Refugees Brave Snow, Sub-Zero Temperatures In Greek Camps

Refugees Brave Snow, Sub-Zero Temperatures In Greek Camps

Refugees and migrants stranded in Greece suffered sub-zero temperatures and heavy snowfall on Tuesday (January 10) at camps not designed for winter weather.

A mid-winter icy spell and snowstorms have gripped central and southeastern Europe for days, and parts of Greece have been covered in rare snow with temperatures dipping to -20 degrees Celsius this week. Snow also fell in downtown Athens on Tuesday.

At a camp near the village of Ritsona, about 80 kilometers north of Athens, temperatures hovered at -1 degrees Celsius as thick snow fell.

The camp, where several hundred refugees have been living for months, is a collection of containers in a forest where clothes left on hanging on lines outdoors had frozen stiff.

As children built snowmen and held snowball fights, the adults covered the containers with plastic tarps and used tree branches to make fires.

"It's very cold for children, very cold you see, yes, it's not like Syria or another country, here, outside, (not) in the city and we haven't a city near," said Rostam, a 34-year-old Syrian Kurd who has been living in Ritsona for 10 months with his wife and three young children.

More than 60,000 refugees and migrants have been trapped in Greece since Balkan countries along the main, northward overland route to wealthy western Europe sealed their borders last March. Most now live in overcrowded camps in abandoned factories or warehouses, or in tents which lack insulation or heating.

Conditions were considerably worse on the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos, where more than 5,000 asylum seekers have been waiting for months for their applications to be processed.

On Tuesday, the government said it was sending a naval ship to Lesbos to accommodate migrants. It was also scrambling to transfer other migrants to hotels.