Twenty-seven prominent NGOs in Greece warned Thursday that refugees and asylum seekers face hunger following the government's decision in October to halt services to those whose asylum applications have been accepted.
Around 34,000 asylum seekers have gone nearly two months without cash assistance which previously allowed them to buy food, clothing and essential items, the International Rescue Committee said in a statement.
The prominent global humanitarian aid, relief and developmental NGO stressed that problems began when the government took over the EU-funded cash assistance program on Oct. 1 that was previously managed by the UN Refugee agency.
The government made public assurances that distributions would resume by the end of October but one month later, the problem that exerts a devastating effect on asylum seekers remains unsolved, according to the committee.
The halt of cash assistance is stripping asylum seekers' of their dignity and depriving them of the lifeline many depend on. "Refugees and asylum seekers, who were already economically marginalized, are resorting to begging and other negative coping mechanisms to survive," said the committee.
Emily Wilson, a humanitarian aid worker with Project Elea, drew attention to the dire situation of refugee women and children.
"The women in Eleonas camp keep telling us that their children are crying at night with hunger. Mothers now don't have money for baby milk so they mush up biscuits in water instead," she said.
Martha Roussou of the International Rescue Committee said the government's decision pushed already vulnerable and marginalized refugees to the edge.
Accusing the Greek government of creating a hunger crisis among refugees and asylum seekers, Anita Bay, director of Save the Children Europe, said: "It is unlawful, unnecessary, and totally unacceptable for this to be happening in the EU."
Accordingly, the NGOs, including Greek, European and global organizations, urged the Greek government to address the problem by restarting cash distributions, distributing adequate food to those dwelling in refugee camps and providing emergency assistance in the form of basic goods and vouchers.