Thessaloniki NGOs appeal for help to deal with influx of Syrian refugees

Two non-governmental organizations appealed to the public on Wednesday to donate clothing and food to help dozens of refugees from war-torn Syria who have flooded into Thessaloniki over the past few weeks.

The Association for the Social Support of Youth (ARSIS) has taken in some 70 refugees, mostly single males, in September alone, the Athens-Macedonia News Agency (AMNA) quoted the organization as saying. Eight of them are minors and have been given accommodation at a municipal shelter, but around 60 of them are sleeping rough on the streets of the northern port city, Arsis said.

“They all have letters from the police saying that they were released from custody after being brought to the islands by people-smugglers,” Arsis spokeswoman Sofia Kralidou told AMNA. “Some of them want to apply for asylum after the expiry of the six-month period during which they are allowed to remain in the country, while others want to continue their journey to Germany or Austria.”

According to the report, the majority of the 60-odd Syrians sleeping rough are aged between 20 and 30 years old, and are well educated. They have been receiving food from the Praksis soup kitchen, which also provides bathroom and showering facilities.

“This large arrival was quite sudden and we are trying to find solutions in order to house and feed them,” said Kralidou, stressing that the coming of winter is making the task especially pressing.

Kralidou appealed to the public for blankets, sleeping bags, gloves, scarves, tinned milk and canned goods, as well as clothes and especially shoes for men.

“Many of them are going around in sandals,” she said.

The NGOs have also appealed to restaurants around central Aristotelous Square, where most of the Syrians bed down for the night, to organize free meals.

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