The number of refugees arriving in Greece from the Middle East is constantly growing, however, the dire economic situation of the country is not allowing the government to provide proper accommodation for all the asylum seekers. Volunteers and organizations are constantly looking for alternative and in some cases unconventional housing options. Recently, an abandoned 550 square meter factory in Thessaloniki was reopened in order to serve as an accommodation and medical facility for refugees.
In partnership with the Greek Ministry of Migration, the Radcliffe Foundation is working with on-the-ground partners to open the Elpída Center to house refugees in northern Greece. Frank Giustra, Canadian philanthropist, businessman and founder of the Radcliffe Foundation, along with American philanthropist Amed Khan, finalized the paperwork to provide housing for 800 refugees – many of them women and children.
“In Greece, the conditions in the camps are just horrendous, completely inhumane,” Khan said. “There are kids playing in sewage, tents out under the 110-degree sun. So I thought, either we could try to work in the camps and try to make them better, or we could do our own thing.”
The abandoned textile factory in Thessaloniki was turned into housing units with the help of volunteers, who also managed to create spaces equipped with electricity, running water, plumbing and kitchens.
The Elpida Home project opened on July 24 and at the moment it houses 160 refugees, while in full capacity it will be able to house up to 700 people.
“Refugees are all victims of wars they didn’t start ― they had normal lives before this,” Khan said. “So here we call them residents, not refugees. The idea at Elpida is that we create independence, not dependence.”