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Emergencies headlines: Europe

Here you can find previous headlines from Europe. These headlines give updates from our work, and areas of concern, of the whole Oxfam confederation. For further information on any of Oxfam's emergency response programmes around the world please contact the Humanitarian HelpDesk in the first instance.

13 June, 2018

Europe: Since France tightened border controls in 2015, thousands of people have been stranded in Ventimiglia on the Italian border. Hundreds of refugees and other migrants sleep rough under a flyover; the official camp that was set up to house them cannot meet all the needs, and the heavy police presence and compulsory fingerprinting deter many from staying there. Oxfam has been working in Ventimiglia since last August, working with Italian NGO Diaconia Valdese giving legal advice, information and material support to those who have been pushed out of the Italian reception system. We have been gathering testimonies telling us that French authorities are returning people who try to cross the border. The greatest source of concern is the dozens of unaccompanied children, many of whom are reporting abuse at the hands of French police, who are frequently subject to arbitrary detention in violation of French, European and other international laws. "French police officers are not upholding international standards. They taunt children and mistreat them... Some children have had the soles of their shoes cut off before being sent back to Italy," reports Chiara Romagno, Oxfam's project leader in Ventimiglia. Read the full report Nowhere But Out: The failure of France and Italy to help refugees and other migrants stranded at the border in Ventimiglia.

14 March, 2018

Serbia: We continue to work in numerous centres for migrants, providing food three times a day. Many of the residents are not moving through in the way they were a year or so ago, and their nationalities vary widely. The number of different languages, cultures, and different expectations of residents brings particular challenges not often experienced in our programme work. Our efforts on the ground in Serbia, Greece, and Italy continue to inform our campaign on migration - more details here:

25 October, 2017

Italy - Migrant Response: This month we began responding in Palermo, adding to six other locations we're already working in across Sicily. Conditions for migrants are harsh - in one area 200 people are seeking shelter under a highway bridge and sourcing unsafe water from nearby marshland. Working through partners, we've been helping migrants access legal aid, providing psychosocial support for victims of torture as well as distributing safety and hygiene kits.

20 January, 2017

Serbia: Temperatures in Belgrade reached a low of -20°C last week and will continue to stay below zero for the next week. Freezing temperatures are putting the lives of the migrants and refugees sleeping rough in Belgrade in danger. We're this week starting distributions of kits to help people get through the worst of the winter. 1600 beneficiaries will receive winter jackets, sleeping mattresses, sleeping bags, hats, gloves, scarves, winter shoes, thermal winter socks, long underwear and sweaters for winter. In Belgrade, the response will target people outside of government accommodation sites in downtown Belgrade, also migrants and refugees that are living in other places in the city. Oxfam will also distribute kits in Horgos and Kelebjia on the border with Hungary, with support for 400 people sleeping outdoors.

09 December, 2016

In the last 18 months more than a million refugees and other migrants have arrived in Europe seeking refuge. Oxfam has created a blog called 'Dear Sisters' in which women refugees walking through Serbia and Macedonia have written powerful letters for those who might follow them. In March the Macedonian and Serbian borders were closed leaving people stuck in limbo and facing an uncertain future. Today there are over 4,000 refugees and migrants in Serbia, either waiting in centres, out in the open in Belgrade, or in informal camps at the border with Hungary. A major consequence of the border closures is an increase in people going underground into the hands of smugglers and traffickers. Some of the heartrending testimonies of women and girls are included in Dear Sisters.

16 September, 2016

Italy: Oxfam's small team in Sicily continues to support migrants arriving through Libya, focusing on the most vulnerable ones such as unaccompanied under-18s, whose numbers are escalating because it's felt they will get a more sympathetic reception on arrival. The situation is fairly chaotic because the process to get (or be refused) asylum can take several months, during which time people are left to their own devices. Oxfam staff locate people wherever they congregate and help them according to need, from finding accommodation, giving material goods, to getting them legal help. We've supported over 5,000 people so far, with an aim to more than double this. Given this situation has not come about because of any single emergency (being more to do with global inequality and the pressure people are put under by their families to migrate to find money), it isn't likely to go away any time soon.

19 August, 2016

Media coverage of migrants and refugees arriving in Europe might have slowed to a trickle, but the number of people arriving in Greece and Italy is still high. In the last three days of July alone, Oxfam documented over 1,770 people rescued in the Mediterranean as they made the hazardous journey from North Africa to Italy. Meanwhile numbers arriving in Greece from Turkey have also increased.

Italy: Oxfam is active in Sicily and Tuscany, running asylum support activities. Besides providing accommodation and meals, we're helping refugees with activities to help them acclimatise to the area and understand how to access local services. We're also working to make sure that vulnerable migrants are aware of their asylum rights, bringing the most vulnerable to safe spaces, and helping children get legal aid (through a partner). On top of this, we've just opened a new reception centre in Florence and signed an agreement for another one to house 80 migrants near Florence. 

Serbia: Oxfam has signed an agreement with the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, which will see them hold training for local NGOs on refugee and asylum seeker rights, as well carry out research on gender and protection gaps in asylum legislation. Another partner has begun distributing clothes and hygiene kits in towns close to the Hungarian border.

Macedonia: Soaring temperatures in the lack of laundry facilities in transit centres has increased demands for items like underwear and nightgowns, so we have now given out most of our stock. The gynaecological container that was purchased with Oxfam funds continues to be used by health teams monitoring and treating pregnant women at the Tabanvce refugee centre.

15 July, 2016

Oxfam worked on a joint NGO statement signed by 131 NGOs against the European approach to migration and foreign policy, and more organisations are still signing up. A wide spectrum of organisations are represented, including labour and youth movements, faith groups, development and humanitarian organisations, and human rights organisations. As a result of the statement, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security has asked Oxfam and other key signatories for a meeting (the first time we have been approached rather than seeking a meeting ourselves). We also had direct feedback that media stories criticising the EU's approach are having an impact, forcing conversations to happen.

17 June, 2016

Greece: Oxfam was founded in 1942 to help civilians who were starving in Nazi-occupied Greece. Now, more than 70 years later, we are once again active in Greece. Oxfam is working in camps in Lesvos and the mainland, providing clean water and sanitation, food, and helping people who have fled conflict and hardship to understand their rights. Maya Mailer, Head of Humanitarian Policy & Campaigns, has written the blog European governments' treatment of refugees is doing long term damage to international law.

10 June, 2016

Sicily: This island off southern Italy has been receiving migrants for over 20 years but since 2011 the arrivals have increased significantly to about 150,000 per year. The route by sea across the central Mediterranean has been called by a staff member 'the most deathful migration route in the entire world'. Oxfam Italy is running a programme to provide practical assistance and protection to people seeking asylum, including psychological referral, legal support and information provision, and distributions of essential kits. A new project called Open Europe will be focusing on equal rights for migrants, targeting those whose asylum claims have failed, and unaccompanied minors (which make up at least one in three arrivals).

20 May, 2016

Italy: The blocking of the route into Greece from Turkey has resulted in a noticeable increase in Syrians and Iraqis switching to the route from Libya/Egypt into Italy. The numbers of people in 'hotspots' is increasing, and people lack any knowledge of what legal rights they may have. Our team in Italy is assessing what we can do to help, particularly with unaccompanied minors - planning to set up safe areas for up to 7,000, and providing access to legal advice for people who have had asylum claims refused. Oxfam Italy was invited by the Government to speak to Parliament about conditions inside hotspots and lack of legal advice where it is needed most.

4 May, 2016

Greece:  Oxfam staff recently hosted a visit by Russian prima ballerina Irina Kolesnikova, who is keen to draw attention to the life being led by migrants stranded in Serbia and Macedonia. Together with her director and choreographer, she went with Oxfam to Tabanovce camp in Macedonia to meet communities in huge distress at being stranded.  They are using their experiences from the camp to create a new interpretation of the ballet Carmen, which will be set in a refugee camp.  It will premier in London in August before going on a world tour.  The story got quite a bit of coverage in the media including the following: Refugee camp inspires Russian ballerina's new Carmen.

22 April, 2016

Greece:  Arrivals to Greece from Turkey have declined in the last couple of weeks. Oxfam is shifting focus from the island of Lesbos to the Greek mainland where roughly 50,000 people are being gradually shifted into about 40 informal camp settlements. We are starting work in two of these, taking over work done to date by the army which has been installing chemical toilets. Our job will be to keep these running in the immediate term, but more towards better and more sustainable facilities, along with distributing basic hygiene items.  Our target population is about 11,000 beneficiaries.