Reach Refugees: donations to impact asylum seeker’s daily lives

Can anyone imagine having to choose between feeding your children and taking them to the doctor? This is one of the choices that many refugees and asylum seekers living in Northern Greece have to make when they need to travel and pay for transport to get to vital appointments. Reach Refugees helps them get to asylum and police services, medical health or legal aid. It is a fund campaign collaborating with Open Cultural Center (OCC) giving cash money to spend on public transport, as many refugee families have to travel between different cities every month to get to essential appointments. Their needs include speaking to the authorities to regularise their situation, going to the hospital, accessing legal aid and advocacy services, going to the police station or visiting the Asylum Service. If they do not have this transport service covered, they are forced to resort to other alternatives such as hitchhiking, which can be a risk of abuse, harassment and even assault.

Photo: Open Cultural Center

Why the idea of launching Reach Refugees?

In 2019, when the United Nations stopped funding transport costs to essential appointments for the refugee community, Xanthe Gwyn Palmer and Annie Winton decided to start Reach Refugees. “We were volunteering in a camp in Greece and decided to take matters into our own hands. We believe that no one should have to choose between basic needs and travelling to access essential services”, says co-founder Xanthe Gwyn Palmer. She and Annie Winton were teaching English and doing other cultural activities with refugee families in Greece when they realised the basic need to cover this essential expense for them. If they are not paid for this transport they may be forced to choose between attending these vital appointments or something as basic as having food, shelter, heat, air conditioner, Wifi or even electricity.

Now, Reach Refugees, in collaboration with OCC in Greece, gives refugees and asylum seekers the money back that they have spent to get these demands within 90 days from the day of the appointment they have done. They just have to show the ticket to receive their money. Journeys can cost anything from 9 euros all the way up to 300 euros depending on how far the family has to travel, and on how many family members need to attend. Sometimes an individual has to travel as far as the island of Kos and this can cost upwards of 300 euros. Even if a bus ticket costs as little as 9 euros, this amounts to a hefty 180 euros per year for a family of, say, four, with a waiting time in Greece of up to five years in some cases. So giving this quantity of money is important to progress people’s asylum applications. Anyone can make a donation!

Why is it important to support Reach Refugees now?

With the war in Ukraine, almost all the money in donations is going there, so projects like Reach Refugees need more help than ever to continue to exist and to be able to provide this service to people in need. “It’s really important for us to be able to offer some stability for our beneficiaries. For this reason, our goal is to maintain at least a 6-month buffer of funds. Our average monthly run rate is about 300 euros per month, so we are aiming to build up a 1800 euros buffer. The best way for us to do this is through recurring donations, and we are also running some exciting events soon to help us reach our goal”, explains Annie excitedly. So far they have helped more than 260 people in Greece, and attendance at their sessions is only growing.