Vathy Refugee Camp, Samos
In 2019, Team RBB were able to support and provide aid to the people living in Vathy Refugee Camp, on the Greek Island of Samos.
The camp was home to 5000 plus people at the time and majority of the residents were living in tents and makeshift shelters, without heating, lighting, electricity. Living conditions were increasingly difficult due to rain and an extremely cold winter as people were forced to live on mud, squalor and a dangerous, uneven terrain, with the camp being on a large hill. .
The situation was critical and in February RBB helped the resident organisation on the ground with an urgent distribution of winter aid for women.
Team RBB then returned in May 2019 after fundraising for and collecting mens clothing which was then sent in a 40 ft container of aid from the UK.
In collaboration with organisations on the ground 1450 clothes packs including a t-shirt, jumper, pair of trousers, underwear and socks was distributed to the brothers in Vathy Camp.
The Belgrade Barracks, Serbia
In 2017, RBB were able to volunteer in, and provide aid to approximately 1200 men and unaccompanied minors at the notorious Belgrade Barrack in Serbia until its eviction and subsequent closure.
The Belgrade Barracks was a large abandoned building which was turned into a squat by displaced people travelling the Balkan route.
When describing The Belgrade Barracks Ruhi says:
“They were living in filth and squalor like I had never seen before. At night it was extremely dark and the stench rotten, I thought of it as a grave. It was large and I remember having a mini claustrophobia induced, panic attack on my first visit which was at night and I had to walk as fast as possible to get outside, to some air and light. However, the men and boys living there didn’t get to leave. They were forced to stay there day in and day out.”
On three different aid missions we were able to provide cricket equipment to boost morale, halal chicken and clothes packs including a pair of trousers, a t-shirt, a jumper, a pair of underwear and socks to all residents.
Idomeni : Greek-Macedonia Border
Idomeni Refugee Camp was a large unofficial camp on the Greek- Macedonia Border.
Since 2014, refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries of the Middle East, crowded into Idomeni in order to cross the Greek borders and enter the Republic of North Macedonia.
As the Syrian Refugee Crisis escalated in 2015 and many people arrived in Greece via boat from Turkey, Idomeni became a hotspot for displaced people as they tried to reach Western European countries such as Germany and Sweden, seeking safety and a better life.
Towards the end of 2015, the Republic of North Macedonia decided to guard its borders with military forces in order to prevent people from entering the country.
Thus the transit camp at Idomeni where no more than 6000 people were passing through each day, rapidly had to become a longer-term refugee camp. The peak number of refugees who stayed in Idomeni numbered more than 15,000.
People were living in tents and makeshift shelters, and many people without any shelter; on and around the rail tracks hoping for through Greece.
On the 24th of May 2016, Greek authorities began relocating refugees from the Idomeni camp to processing facilities mostly in and around Thessalinoki. People were moved to military camps and thus Idomeni Refugee Camp closed.
Until its closure Idomeni Camp was a crisis zone as people fleeing war and conflic were further forced to live without basic necessities and adequate shelter.
RBB were able to volunteer in Idomeni in 2016 supporting the provision of food from a volunteer led bus kitchen as well as providing other urgent aid independently such as summer clothing for women and children, baby products, hygiene products and shelter items.
Thessaloniki, Northern Greece
The Military Camps of Thessaloniki
After the closure of Idomeni Camp asylum seekers still remaining in Northern Greece were moved to the military camps. From July 2016 until mid 2017 RBB were involved in providing humanitarian aid to thousands of people who were living in this camps. Some of the main camps RBB were supporting were called Softex Camp, Vaichori Camp, Alexyl Derveni and Oraikastoro Camps and they were old factories or unused far away land were 1000-1500 each people resided.
The living conditions were inhumane and large families or single people of up to ten people were sharing one tent. People complained of cold, a lack of food, supplies and sanitation and electricity cuts were frequent leaving everyone in darkness.
Depending on funds and donations, RBB were able to provide dried food packs, fresh food items including eggs and vegetables, baby products, hygiene kits, women's ethnic clothing, winter clothes and shoes, winter accessories, solar powered lights, safety attack alarms among other requested necessities, as much possible.
The Streets Project
One other key project RBB were supporting in Thessaloniki was known as 'The Streets Project,' as after the closure of Idomeni camp there was also at time 300-500 people who were homeless out on the streets of Thessaloniki. They were people who couldn't register in the military camps due to space or were frightened to as they felt due to the country they came from they would not receive asylum in Greece or be accepted onto the relocation program.
The people residing on the streets were the most vulnerable as they weren't eligible for any government support and most slept without a roof over their heads at night, in alleys, under bridges and in squalid broken abandoned building, exposed to all weather elements.
There are still displaced people staying on the streets of Thessaloniki although the numbers are now less. Until a few grassroots organisation were able to provide regular and long term support for them RBB continued to provide humanitarian assistance in the form of shelter items, sleeping bags and blankets, food, clothes, shoes, mosquito repellent, power banks and solar powered lights.
Aid Collections & Shipping
Since RBB formed as a grassroots organisation to support displaced people worldwide, one of our key activities has been to collect aid within the UK and ship to our areas of support.
We work with local and national volunteers and organisations for this. Often setting up collection points throughout the UK.
Not only do we collect aid but we also fund raise to buy aid in the UK where feasible in comparison to the country where the aid is going. This can often be necessary due to the specialist aid distribution goals we aim to fulfill for specific gaps - meaning this aid is not readily available.
The aid can be sent via a range of methods including courier boxes, pallets of aid, trucks and 40 ft containers of aid, considering the logistics.
We have sent humanitarian aid to France, Greece, Syria and Northern Iraq.
In partnership with other charity organisations in the UK we have been able to send three 40 ft containers of aid to the Greek Island of Chios, which we then received and distributed ourselves.