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Christians assist migrants in Greece

28 August 2015

by Abigail Frymann Rouch in Athens


Safe harbour: migrants from a passenger ship arrive at Piraeus, near Athens, on Tuesday

Safe harbour: migrants from a passenger ship arrive at Piraeus, near Athens, on Tuesday

CHAPLAINCIES across Europe are sending cash to Athens to support the Church there in its work to help the thousands of refugees arriving in Greece.

An ecumenical delegation led by the Suffragan Bishop in Europe, the Rt Revd David Hamid, is scheduled to arrive in the country on 14 September.

It is understood that the Archbishop of Canterbury sent a letter last month to the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Athens & All Greece, Ieronymos II, to express his solidarity in the face of the migrant crisis and the country’s economic difficulties.

The senior Anglican chaplain in Athens, Canon Malcolm Bradshaw, told members of his congregation on Sunday that he had taken part in a 90-minute conference call involving representatives from Christian Aid, Us. (formerly USPG), Dr Hamid, and others.

“Presently a fund is accumulating in London to contribute to meeting the needs of migrants/refugees passing through Greece — their numbers are increasing, and winter approaches,” he said.

Canon Bradshaw said that the conference call last week also involved representatives of the Greek Orthodox charity Apostoli, the Salvation Army in Greece, the Archbishops’ Council, the CMS, the Anglican Communion Office, the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, and the Anglican Alliance for Development, Advocacy and Aid.

The Anglican chaplaincy of St Paul’s, Athens, has found itself caught up in the refugee crisis, which agencies are describing as the worst in a generation. Two weeks ago, the Salvation Army reported that about 1500 migrants were arriving each week — many of them fleeing war in Syria.

In the past two weeks, the Greek government has helped arrivals to Greek islands reach Athens and continue north — many want to reach EU nations with stronger economies — but islands such as Lesbos, which, Amnesty International reports, has received 33,000 migrants since the beginning of August, remain overwhelmed. Many migrants arrive in flimsy boats from Turkey with almost nothing, and lack food, water, and access to basic sanitation.

Canon Bradshaw expressed concern that some migrants arriving in Piraeus, the harbour of Athens, were being picked up by traffickers.

Earlier this month, when many Afghan migrants who have since moved on were sleeping rough in one of the parks in the city, the Salvation Army said on its website that it could not supply enough food parcels for them all.

A soup kitchen run by St Paul’s and the Orthodox diocese of Athens is giving out more than 800 meals a day, many to Syrians and Afghans, as well as to Greeks made homeless by the country’s economic crisis.

St Paul’s had also carried out an emergency collection among the English-speaking community for clothing, shoes, toiletries, blankets, and sleeping bags, Canon Bradshaw said.

They had also bought phone cards for migrants, so that they could make contact with their families. Those who had been arrested for staying beyond the expiry of their temporary permission to remain were also able to phone lawyers.

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