Shelter upgrade gives refugees in Alexandria space to live

Space is vital for every human being’s activities and personal health. However, for hundreds of refugees living in prefabricated accommodations in Greece, overcrowding means a loss of dignity and personal space. A new upgrade project carried out by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) at the Alexandria refugee site, in northern Greece, has made a real difference to hundreds of residents’ lives.


In the past months, like in other hosting sites in the Greek north, Alexandria residents found themselves in need for more space. Throughout this year, Greek authorities have been struggling to cope with the ever-rising numbers of people crossing the Greek-Turkish border as there has been an 421.85% increase of these arrivals compared to 2017 so far, according to official police figures.

To ease living conditions for Alexandria site residents who lived in confining prefabricated houses, DRC added more space and implemented a series of needed constructional works.

But it was not an easy task and it involved the cooperation of DRC technical staff and the residents.

The upgrade project lasted for 11 weeks and included 2 phases. Firstly, DRC created an area where residents would be relocated until their new housing units were ready. At this area, 33 prefabricated containers of 18 square meters each were installed.  

During the second phase, DRC turned 96 prefabricated containers of 18 square meters each into 64 upgraded housing units of 27square meters. New water, sewage and electrical networks were also constructed and installed.

Overall, DRC provided better accommodation to 256 asylum seekers and refugees while ensuring they all have access to private sanitation, kitchen facilities and basic furniture.

For 43-year old Mohammad Hannan, a separate kitchen has changed his family’s everyday reality. “We can cook much easier than before because there is a separate kitchen now, we can tidy the dishes in the right place. We live like a normal family now,” he says. Mohammad and his wife have 3 daughters and a son and they also take care of their nephew. A family of seven, they found it difficult to accommodate personal and family needs and welcomed the upgrade with enthusiasm. “We were asked if we prefer an apartment outside the site recently, but we refused because there is no need now,” Mohammad concludes.

These works in Alexandria site have marked a milestone for all organizations providing services in the site, but most importantly, for the refugees themselves.

“We aimed to have fully autonomous housing units, and this is what makes the difference,” says Charilaos Karasiotos, DRC Shelter/Wash Specialist. “There are no common toilets or kitchens any more. Instead, there is an additional room and the housing units are now equipped with two air conditioners instead of one. There is also one solar water heater for every two units now,” he explains.    

29-year-old Husam Habash from who Syria lives in Alexandria with his wife and his 2 sons, agrees. This family was also struggling to live in a limited space. “A lot of problems are solved now”, he says, “like the toilet and the showers. We don’t need to go out into the cold to use the communal wash or hygiene facilities, it is more difficult in the winter, especially for the children. We also have more privacy now because parents can sleep in a separate room and we don’t need to escort the children to the bathroom anymore”, he adds.

This upgrade was part of DRC Site Management Support activities which take place in nine refugee sites across Greece, in close collaboration with the Greek Ministry of Migration Policy. With the support of the European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO), DRC implements large scale works, provides assistance and services (shelter, food packages, non-food items, and access to water, sanitation and hygiene) as well as support in coordinating activities.