An NGO in Chios with a Free Shop that provides Non-Food Items to asylum seekers and refugees.

The Forgotten Refugee Crisis

Just 6 km from Turkey’s coast, Chios, Greece’s 5th largest island, is a favoured crossing point for smugglers ferrying refugees from war and drought-stricken countries to the EU. Boat Landings are no longer in the news, but they continue to occur regularly – people land on Chios cold and wet, with just what they’ve carried with them. The government maintains the Vial Closed Control Access Center (CCAC) and provides limited supplies, such as shelter, water, and food. Any other needs are met by NGOs, several of which closed during Covid. There is an ongoing need for support of the hundreds of asylum seekers and refugees in Vial CCAC on Chios, and the rapidly increasing number of unaccompanied minors inside the safe zone.

Offene Arme (Formerly CESRT)

Offene Arme is the only remaining NGO on Chios that is continuously providing  Non-Food Items (NFIs) to asylum seekers and refugees through a Free Shop. NFI items include essentials like clothing, shoes, and hygiene items. We distribute these through:

    • A Free Shop where asylum seekers and refugees can choose their own clothes and hygiene items, helping them to maintain a small sense of normality;

    • A Pop-up Shop that is set up just outside of Vial CCAC for Unaccompanied Minors (UAMs), as they are unable to come to the Free Shop alone;
    • Distributions of hygiene items and excess stock are run outside of Vial CCAC whenever possible to provide as many items as possible;

    • A Hospital Project that transfers people from Vial CCAC to any healthcare service they might need, therefore saving lives;
    • Landing Packs of essentials that can be distributed to asylum seekers and refugees in emergency situations when they arrive;

    • And many, many other projects and activities – including providing babies and their mothers with essential items such as strollers, bottles, and blankets.

You can read more about our projects in the tab “What we do”.

A Constantly Changing Environment

The work involved is complex and ever-changing. “It Takes a Village” is a basic tenet, as diverse groups are brought together in a constantly changing environment, but with a single goal of meeting the basic needs of asylum seekers and refugees.

    • Organisations and Individual Donors: Generous organisations and donors send us used and new items. The need for items is so great that we also buy specific items from whole suppliers when necessary. 

    • Warehouse: When items arrive in the warehouse they need to be assessed, sorted and stored. We use the warehouse to store items and prepare for distributions. Seasonal items such as winter jackets and joggers need to be replaced as the seasons changed. 

    • Stocking and Distribution. Items are picked from the warehouse to create landing packs, skin infection packs, baby packs, and to restock the Free Shop.

    • Alliances and Communication. We have strong cooperations with the Organisations in the field such as Praxis, Metadrasis, and Zeuxis. This allows us to reach as many people as possible. We have have frequent communication with those inside Vial CCAC to allow us to help the most vulnerable in the population – such as Unaccompanied minors and those with medical needs.

    • Volunteers. People of all ages and nationalities come to Chios to help. Over 2000 short-and long-term volunteers have donated their time. Their work is essential to our efforts.

How you Can Help

While the number of refugees is increasing, Brexit and Russia’s invasion on Ukraine have strained resources. Monthly donations have decreased. We lost half of our suppliers due to increased custom tariffs after Brexit. As a result, we’ve decreased the number of items each refugee is allotted, whilst purchasing missing items, further impacting our finances. The number of volunteers has decreased. We need your support.

    • Volunteer: Please consider coming to Chios and spending some time volunteering with us.

    • Funds: Please consider a financial donation and know that your donation will have a direct impact on the asylum seeking refugee population on the island. Using donations, we recently purchased shoes and winter coats when our supplies were low.

    • Supplies: If you are in the position to supply us with aid, please reach out to see our current needs.