Grant Recipients: 2020-21 academic year
SolidariTee offers grants to individuals and NGOs working right at the heart of the refugee crisis.
In the 2020/21 year, we supported six legal aid NGOs working in 4 different locations: Thessaloniki in mainland Greece, and the islands of Lesvos, Samos, and Chios.
Read a summary of the work these incredible organisations and a brief overview of each location below. All information was correct at the time of awarding grants, but please note that impact statistics will now be outdated, as each NGO has continued its work since then.
NGOs Working on Lesvos
In March 2020, there were 20,000 asylum seekers living in Moria camp on the island of Lesvos, a place frequently referred to as a ‘living hell’, with just one tap for every 1300 people in some places. Since then, tragedy has continued to unfold; the camp was placed on an extended lockdown for weeks on end, with many NGOs having to suspend their services. On 2nd September, the first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the camp, an unprecedented disaster given how impossible any form of social distancing was. Just 6 days later, a huge fire devastated the camp, leaving its 13,000 former residents homeless and sleeping on the roadside. Since then, a new ‘temporary’ camp named Kara Tepe has been created on the island, which has flooded entirely with just the first rains of the season. We call for the urgent relocation of the camp’s residents and provision of safe, appropriate accommodation.
Legal Centre Lesvos is a small group of legally trained international volunteers based in Lesvos who provide legal information and assistance to asylum seekers and migrants, whilst supporting Greek lawyers in their provision of legal advice and representation.
They believe in solidarity, not charity, with the aim to create meaningful change through advocacy, strategic litigation and engagement with the refugee movement.
They work with refugee communities to support their organizing and advocacy efforts to allow them to realise their rights. Additionally, the information collected by Legal Centre Lesvos serves as a basis for human rights reports, legal strategies, and press statements.
Fenix has a field team of 30 international and local lawyers, legal assistants, translators, social workers and psychologists who believe in taking a holistic approach to legal aid. This considers the particular needs and skills of each asylum seeker, empowering them by acknowledging their individuality and offering them tools to navigate a very complicated procedure and build a new life in a safe country.
Fenix takes a two-fold approach to legal aid by providing asylum-seekers with the necessary legal knowledge to navigate their own asylum process while supporting their individual needs and individuality, and advocating for a more equitable asylum system by reporting human rights violations and pursuing advocacy and strategic litigation. Since its founding less than two years ago, Fenix has supported more than 2500 asylum seekers.
Fenix Humanitarian Legal Aid
Legal Centre Lesvos
NGOs Working in Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki is a region in Northern mainland Greece, home to some 16,000 refugees and asylum seekers (April 2020). Thessaloniki has long been hailed as the ‘mother of migration’, having been a focal point for those seeking refuge for centuries. Whilst many refugees live in overcrowded and dangerous camps, many others live within the centre itself, and accessing vital information and legal services can be incredibly challenging.
Mobile Info Team
The Mobile Info Team (MIT) has supported over 700 asylum cases, representing over 1,500 refugees, and specialising in family reunification. An asylum claim cannot be straightforwardly transferred from one country to another, leaving many family members and unaccompanied minors stranded across several different countries, with the threat of deportation hanging over them.
Thus far, their advocacy has directly resulted in countless positive application decisions for those struggling to navigate the complex asylum process. MIT use a 3 tier system: their social media provides essential information to their followers, which includes many refugees; they have a WhatsApp hotline for asylum seekers’ concerns and enquiries; and hold in-person sessions, with group sessions to provide information and one-to-one casework sessions.
NGOs Working in Samos
In 2020, the island of Samos had the second largest number of asylum seekers after Lesvos in Greece, with more than 7,000 people currently residing in Vathy camp, a facility designed to accommodate just 700. However, the presence of lawyers who can help with this process is low, and most shockingly, there is no state-provided legal aid on the island whatsoever.
Avocats Sans Frontières
Avocats Sans Frontières is an international organisation that works to defend individuals’ fundamental rights through providing access to independent legal advice and ensuring the proper implementation of human rights. This year, SolidariTee are supporting their work at a legal aid centre on the island of Samos. The centre opened in January 2019, and in their first six months supported 387 individuals with their asylum applications.
ASF in Samos focus on providing support and information to asylum seekers prior to the initial asylum interview and throughout the appeals process where necessary. This includes activities such as translating medical documents, communicating with the Greek asylum service, working on family reunification cases, and identifying individuals who are classed as ‘vulnerable’ so able to access specific protections.
European Lawyers in Lesvos
ELIL believes that every asylum seeker should be able to receive free, high-quality assistance from an independent, experienced lawyer before their asylum interview. They provide legal assistance to asylum seekers on Lesvos and Samos. Of those they have assisted, 74.5% have been granted asylum, compared to an average of 46.5% in Greece, and have provided free legal assistance to over 11,000 people since 2016.
They provide one-to-one legal consultations, assistance with family reunification applications, and group legal information sessions. These help familiarise asylum seekers with the asylum process, help them understand their rights, and prepare fully for interview.
NGOs Working in Chios
Chios is a small island close to Turkey, and was one of the major 'hotspot' islands in 2015. In 2020, there were over 5,300 asylum seekers in Vial camp, a facility designed to accommodate 840. In April 2020, the camp was partially destroyed by fires, and in October 2020 Vial was placed on lockdown due to numerous confirmed COVID-19 cases within the camp, making it even more difficult for asylum seekers to access crucial services.
A.Ss.I.S.T (Asylum Seekers Information Services Team)
A.Ss.I.S.T’s mission is to ensure all asylum seekers have access to fair process when their case is being assessed through the provision of information and legal aid, and that those ineligible for asylum still receive adequate information and support about their situations. They work with the core values of accountability, honesty, respect and responsibility, and impartiality.
From July to December 2019, they supported over 1000 asylum seekers through information Sessions and legal aid provision. There are few lawyers on Chios who are qualified to support refugees in their asylum applications, with A.Ss.I.S.T working to fill this gap.
Our Emergency COVID-19 Fund
The current COVID-19 pandemic is a huge threat and source of disruption globally. However, it is vulnerable communities, including asylum seekers, who will be hit the hardest of all. Europe’s refugee camps are bursting at the seams but woefully under-resourced, and normal preventative measures are incredibly difficult to achieve. Given the unprecedented scale of the current pandemic, we recognise that an urgent healthcare response is imperative in order to save lives.
Kitrinos have been providing medical care to residents in Moria camp on the island of Lesvos for four years and had been working to expand their operations to fight the COVID-19 outbreak, including setting up a ‘Nightingale’-style emergency field hospital on Lesvos, to treat patients suffering from COVID-19; providing public health education to camp residents on the importance of social distancing and handwashing, the mainstay of global guidelines aimed at reducing the number of new infections; and evacuating the most vulnerable individuals from Moria camp.
On September 9th, huge fires consumed the Moria camp and left nearly 13,000 men, women and children without shelter or access to essential services. Despite this, the Kitrinos team have continued to support asylum seekers on the island, providing medical advice and vital medications to those with long-term health conditions.
Mobile Info Team
Fenix - Humanitarian Legal Aid
SolidariTee is committed to funding the most innovative and sustainable projects, helping them in the early stages so that they can create lasting change. If your organisation works in refugee aid, particularly legal aid, and you would like to be notified as to when our next grant cycle opens, please email email@example.com.