Farid Eskandari from Afghanistan is excited that his family of five has a bit more space. PHOTO: DRC

DRC site expansion project gives refugees room to breathe

Privacy is a luxury many take for granted. However, for hundreds of refugees living in prefabricated accommodations in Greece, overcrowding means a loss of dignity and personal space. A new expansion project carried out by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) at the Schisto refugee hosting site in Attica, Greece, has made a real difference to hundreds of residents’ lives.


65-year-old Nasima, from Afghanistan, first lived for three months in a one-room housing container with a family of three after making the dangerous journey to Greece from her war-torn home.

A former midwifery trainer at an Afghan hospital, Nasima told DRC that its project to add extra rooms to her container home meant “more private space, a common kitchen and bathroom”.

“After the addition of the extra rooms, I moved to a container with three women and I share a room with an Iranian lady,” she says. With extra furniture provided by DRC, her quality of life here has improved.

“I really want to thank DRC for putting in this extra room,” Nasima adds.

DRC’s project began in September 2017, and was completed in January this year with the support of the European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO).

Schisto -site

The newly expanded housing units at Schisto site. PHOTO: DRC

When DRC took over management of the site from the UNHCR in May 2017, the aim of the project was just to add kitchenettes to each of the container homes. Gradually, however, the focus shifted to adding an extra room so as not to deprive residents of living space.

The new design created a common dining area of the indoor kitchen space, while an extra 3x3 meter (9.8 feet) bedroom was added, giving the housing units an L-shape. Overall, seventy-eight prefabricated homes were selected to have an extra room added.

DRC Shelter Officer Thodoris Marinis said the project not only provided additional indoor space for residents but also “a redistribution of private outdoor space and the strengthening of the neighborhood aspect on site”.

Marinis said residents were consulted during the project as to their needs: “The feeling of having a home and a neighborhood is a question of co-existence and daily life quality that we discussed with the users.”

This is evident at the site today, where many Schisto residents have been hard at work, using additional materials to improve their containers, create small gardens and build welcoming porches.

Farid Eskandari from Afghanistan has created one of the most beautiful gardens in Schisto.

“If you live in a place even for a day, you have to take care of it like a home, make it nice and keep it clean,” he says.

When it was time to add the extra room, Farid had to move all his plants to one side of his garden. However, he was happy that his family of five would have a lot more private space.

Having been refugees their whole lives, Farid is determined to make the best out of every situation and he plans to turn his housing container into a “green” house when spring comes.


DRC in Greece

DRC carries out site management support at eight locations across Greece, collaborating closely with the Ministry of Migration Policy.

DRC provides assistance and services such as shelter, food packages, non-food items as well as access to water, sanitation and hygiene. The organization also offers support in coordinating activities.

DRC assists refugees and internally displaced persons across the globe. It initiated its activities in Greece in November 2015 on Lesvos Island and has expanded its activities to the Greek mainland in the following year. It will continue the support of Schisto site in 2018, by providing ongoing care and maintenance to the facilities there.