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Syrian Refugees Risk Lives To Find Safety In Greece

June 30, 2015

Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — Summer is the height of tourist season in the Greek isles, but Amina, 35, isn't on the island of Chios with her husband and three young sons for a vacation. The Syrian refugee family is in flight from Damascus. Their long and arduous trek took them through Lebanon and into Turkey, where they hiked a grueling 200 miles across the country to reach a boat that would carry them to safety in Greece.

Also part of their group were several Syrian youth under 18 traveling alone or with distant relatives, like Sahir, 17, a member of Amina's extended family. They travel at great risk with the hope to reach Western Europe and register as underage refugees, which would allow their parents to join them.

The eastern Aegean isles have been inundated by the flow of Syrian refugees arriving by sea. The island of Chios, which lies just four miles from Turkey, has received more than 7,000 newcomers since last March. The influx of refugees has overwhelmed local authorities on this small island of only 32,000 inhabitants as they struggle to register refugees and provide basic shelter and food to the men, women, and children who arrive daily at Chios' small and outdated immigrant reception center.

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) with its local partner, Apostoli, the humanitarian arm of the Church of Greece, is responding to the dire needs of the refugees by improving poor hygiene and health conditions in the crowded reception centers. Newly installed portable showers along with renovated plumbing and sewage systems provide the travel weary refugees with a place to take care of their personal hygiene in privacy and with dignity. IOCC is also providing 1,700 personal hygiene kits customized to meet the needs of men, women, or infants, and reinforcing good hygiene practices through bilingual posters in English and Arabic and one-on-one awareness talks with refugees of all ages.

In addition, school kits filled with writing and coloring supplies, will be distributed to 200 school-aged children including Amina's three boys, Bayas, 11; Abdurrahmal, 6; and Aymullah, 4. "I just want my children to be safe and happy," said the tearful and exhausted mother. "There was nothing we could do in Syria, with our lives in danger all the time." In spite of her tired state, Amina and her husband were already eager to move their family on to the next step of the journey – to a new country where their children can receive a good education and grow up far from the memories of war.

IOCC, an ACT Alliance member, is providing immediate and ongoing humanitarian assistance to families in need who have endured four years of Syria's brutal civil war. Since 2012, IOCC has provided relief to 3 million people displaced inside Syria, or living as refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Armenia, and Greece.

HOW YOU CAN HELP
You can help the victims of poverty and conflicts around the world by making a financial gift to the IOCC International Emergency Response Fund which will provide immediate relief, as well as long-term support through the provision of emergency aid, recovery assistance and other support to help those in need. To make a gift, please visit iocc.org or call toll free at 1-877-803-IOCC (4622), or mail a check or money order payable to IOCC, P.O. Box 17398, Baltimore, MD 21297.