Echo100Plus is a registered Austrian charity, which was founded in 2012 by a group of friends, most of them Austrians with strong ties to Greece, who were moved to take action when the scale and intensity of the growing economic and social crisis became apparent. Echo100Plus acts as bridge between NGO’s and private initiatives in Greece and their counterpart abroad, all with the common aim to support Greece in these difficult times.
As a result of the economic and financial crisis, the Greek social and public welfare system cannot even begin to cope with the problems it faces, leaving it up to private humanitarian organizations and aid initiatives to tackle the increasing poverty and social distress. Echo100Plus determined that the most efficient way to operate was to identify a few outstanding local NGOs, which were already providing crucial support to the impoverished Greek population. Constantly underfunded and understaffed, these initiatives manage to improvise on small budgets and rely heavily on the help of volunteers.
Since it has become almost impossible to get funding from the Greek private sector, let alone from government sources, Echo100Plus decided to step in and work towards securing funding from international sources.
The refugee crisis hit Greece when it was already in a critical economic situation, utterly unable to deal with additional demands. Thousands of people, fleeing war-torn Syria and other countries in the region affected by war, are arriving daily on the Greek islands, resulting, in some areas, in a humanitarian state of emergency for both the refugees and the local Greeks population. In response to the desperate shortage of aid for the refugees, established NGOs have extended their aid projects to also include refugee support, and new initiatives have sprung up all over Greece, with the aim of addressing the most urgent needs, which in some instances are literally matters of life-and-death. Echo100Plus has followed the lead of these deeply admirable organizations, and has extended its Greek solidarity program to support several refugee aid initiatives.
According to UNHCR statistics more than 856.000 refugees and migrants arrived in Greece in 2015, another 130.000 have crossed the sea from Turkey within the past three months alone. In 2016 already more than 120 lives were lost. The islands close to the Turkish coast, such as Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Kos, and Leros, are the most affected. These islands are completely unprepared for receiving such high numbers of refugees, arriving on a daily basis. Refugees, who for the most part have already traveled hundreds of miles through Turkey, arrive on the Greek coasts in inadequate, ill-equipped and often damaged rubber boats that have been sold to them at extortionate prices by the human traffickers in Turkey. The dangerous circumstances of this sea passage make accidents inevitable, and in this year alone, hundreds of people have lost their lives crossing the Aegean Sea. Of those surviving the journey, many have suffered enormous physical and psychological trauma, especially the children. Upon arrival on the various islands, the police gather refugees in improvised shelters, until they are registered and their documents are issued, without which refugees cannot continue their journeys. This process normally takes up to two days, depending on ferry schedules and the availability of staff and materials. During their brief stay on the islands, refugees need dry clothes, shelter, and food, as well as basic medical attention. Despite the presence of the UNHCR, MSF, and other international humanitarian aid organizations, most of these basic supplies and services are in fact provided by private initiatives and volunteer workers.
Echo100Plus is currently focusing its efforts on the following projects:
The closing of European borders in March together with controversial agreements with Turkey, and an asylum process that never seems to advance have transformed last year’s frenzied influx of refugees to Greece to an eerie standstill.
Article in austrian newspaper "Die Presse".
Article in austrian newspaper "Profil".