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Greek refugee programme offers alternative to overcrowded camps

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An family of Afghan refugees in Lesbos have been helped to find housing on the Greek island of Lesbos.
An family of Afghan refugees in Lesbos have been helped to find housing on the Greek island of Lesbos.   -   Copyright  Euronews / Apostolos Staikos
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Greece has long been on the frontline of the Syrian refugee crisis. In recent years, the island of Lesbos has become a sympbol of Europe's failure to cope with the influx - with migrants and asylum seekers living in unsanitary, overcrowded camps.

But now not all refugees live in the camp.

The NGO, Sunshine, implements a housing programme for vulnerable refugees.

Hamideh Bateri from Afghanistan and her children share a house with another family. Although the conditions are good, the 42-year-old hopes that she will leave for Sweden soon:

"We left Afghanistan to escape the war. My husband and my eldest son left first and managed to reach Stockholm. For the last two years, myself and my other three children have been stuck on this island. We hope to get asylum and join them soon."

The family has one bedroom and shares the rest of the house with another family also from Afghanistan.

Didarali Satehi is an asylum seeker from Afghanistan. He says it's time to leave the island:

"We stayed in Moria for nine months. It's a period I do not want to remember. Now, in this house the situation is much better, but we do not want to stay in Lesbos. My children have to go to school and I have to work. Our future is in Germany."

The housing programme started in 2016 and is now funded by the Ministry of Μigration and Asylum. Currently, 700 asylum seekers live in 103 apartments in or near the city of Mytilene. Renting so many houses is a boost for the local economy.

"This housing program is important because it offers safety and good living conditions to vulnerable people who lived in the camp," says to euronews a coordinator at the Sunshine NGO. "These asylum seekers needed protection. Now, they are safe and have access to public services, such as hospitals."

Fewer than 10,000 refugees and migrants now live in Lesbos, while in recent months more than 1,100 refugees have left Greece for Germany. This is the dream of dozens of other families who remain on the island, being patient and hoping that their turn will come soon.