In mid-2015, three people launched themselves on their own to create a network to facilitate the reception and integration of refugees from the conflict zones of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan who, after staying in reception centres, would take to the streets. Agustín, Patricia and Eva sowed the seed of what would be a great humanitarian movement that has mobilized thousands of people since then. Seeing that the Government was not fulfilling its commitments to receive refugees and that they remained trapped in Turkey and Greece, it was decided to change the objective and bring humanitarian aid where it was needed: to refugee camps, temporary shelters or squats organized by Greek volunteers in Greece. With the collaboration of the SEUR Foundation we set in motion a I campaign of collections throughout the region to bring aid by ship to Greece.
We started with six containers of food and clothing that we took to Lesbos and Chios. We then encouraged volunteers from the various collection groups to travel to Athens to help sort and distribute material.
Volunteers started arriving in Athens in April 2016 and we started with the distribution of food and tents in the makeshift refugee camp next to the pier in the port of Piraeus, where the ferries from the islands arrived. Many Spanish volunteers tried to make life a little more dignified under the bridge where they took refuge.
For the first two years, SOS REFUGIADOS was providing humanitarian aid to refugees in Athens through shipments of supplies from Spain that were stored in the Elliniko warehouse, an Olympic basketball stadium located on the outskirts of Athens and loaned by the Greek government to the Athenian group Pampiraiki and SOS Refugiados.
In the summer of 2016, there were more than 100 volunteers working with aid workers from the five continents in the Elliniko warehouse.
Elliniko was the origin of the SOS REFUGIADOS volunteer group. In that place, sorting out supplies, the necessary synergies were produced to start collaborating in the squats, valuing the idea of having our own premises to distribute the material we brought from Spain more directly. From Elliniko we created links of cooperation with NGO’s that officially operated in the camps, like Red Cross, ProActiva Open Arms, Médecins Sans Frontières, Humanitarian Maritime Rescue and many other organizations. We took material to refugee camps in Athens and the north of Greece, mainly thanks to vans rented by volunteers and later on with the provision of donations from the people of HERNANI, propelled by our friend Kepa.
Without forgetting the outreach work, we also reported on the situation of refugees in Athens in multiple media and through the organization of activist events – demonstrations, concerts in Athens, etc. In the summer of 2017, 90% of Elliniko volunteers and those who attended the squats were SOS REFUGIADOS and groups working with us. After the summer, the number of volunteers decreased, but the flow has been constantly stabilising with the implementation of the Victoria Social Center and now with the Renovated Victoria.
Refugee women deserve a special mention in this project. RED SOS REFUGIADOS has collaborated in different workshops with women and children thanks to which Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan women have trusted us. We have been learning from them how to be effective and to relate from equality: we’ve collaborated, not helped.
We always try to meet their needs and try to obtain what their vital needs are: breast milk, nappies, sanitary products, intimate hygiene, etc.
It’s not easy to do what we’ve all done together. Many problems have arisen, difficult situations that we have been overcoming and from which we have learned how to get where we are. Helping is not easy, but thanks to the support and messages of encouragement we receive every day, we keep moving forward.
RED SOS REFUGIADOS are each and every one of us who trust that someday the world will be more just. We will continue to demonstrate the power of the people, working in silence and tirelessly. We have a motto engraved in our hearts: ‘PEOPLE HELP AND NEVER ABANDON THE PEOPLE!’ (Unfortunately, some neither know nor will ever know what this means.) Refugee brothers, here we are and here we will continue, always at your side.