Iris Center Chios Update

💚 Dear all friends and supporters. It’s been a while, but here’s an update from the team on the island 💚

Per now there are 714 regfugees registered in Vial camp on Chios. In addition there are more than 100 apartments around the island, where several families often live together. Many refugees have left the island for mainland Greece the last year.

– The situation is very bad. People are sent to Thessaloniki, but they don’t have anywhere to stay there, Shirley, one of the volunteers, tells.

For now there are four organizations working on the island of Chios. Offene Arme are giving out clothes, Refugee Biriyani & Bananas are distribution food packages, One Family – No Borders are taking people to the dentist and we, The Iris Center Team, are distribution toiletries and equipment for new born babies.


Seeking safety in Greece as an refugee leaves you with two options – either you grant asylum, and then have 30 days before you have to manage on your own, or you get rejected, and have the possibility to appeal.

– When you get rejected the first time, they take your cash card and food card. Appealing costs 250 dollars, Shirley explains.

– People are trying to keep up their hope to get asylum, but what are they supposed to do when they take you cash card and you don’t have the money to appeal?, she asks.

But granting asylum in Greece dosen’t solve any problems either, Shirley tells us. Before 2019 you had the right to 6 months of support after you granted asylum. Now it’s 30 days.

That means families end up on the street or have to live in small apartments with friends.

– There are no possibilities in Greece when you grant asylum. There are no jobs. You just have your documents, and then you have to go.

As a result, many people who have left the island come back to Chios after some time because they don’t know what to do. Shirley is in despair for the people she meets.

– People have kids – they need money for food, for house rent, for pampers. What are they supposed to do?


Shirley herself has been working with Iris for over two years, and tells about the endless wait.

She arrived in December 2018. After 6 months in the camp she got her first interview, and the second after 9 months. One year later she got her decision. Then she had to wait 8 more months to take fingerprints for the refugee-ID card. Then it took 1 year and 3 months to get the refugee-ID card.

Now the next step is taking fingerprints for her greek passport. In total it’s been 2 years and 6 months, and all she can do is wait.

– I don’t have the time to go to the office and push my case, because I work.

Shirley hopes to soon get her passport so that she can travel to another country and seek asylum there. Her daugther back home in Kamerun is sick, but getting a job in Greece so that she can support her daugther is impossible. But giving up is not an option for Shirley.

– What I can’t change, I can’t change. That’s why I don’t bother myself. I will come out of this situation some time – but it’s only God who can do it. If you spend your time thinking of things you can’t change, you might die.

Many refugees are so tired, she tells.

– The government say its two weeks, but then it takes two months. What will you eat, what will you wear? People are very frustrated and confused. People are tired.


The Iris Team have two people on the ground working – Shirley and Ali, both of them waiting for their passport, which they have done for years already.

The Iris Team needs support to be able to continue the work. Because of the pandemic it’s been few volunteers, and the ones keeping the wheel going are Ali and Shirley alone.

Without all their working hours Iris would cope. Therefore Iris pays some of their house rent including some food and taxi-money so that they get around with the donations. In addition Iris pays a montly container-rent where we keep the clothing donations.

– People ask if I don’t get tired. I answer that I came here to work, Shirley says.

Janne Hegna, the founder of the Iris Team, has been living in Chios for more than four years, but now she’s home in Norway. She says Iris have been lucky the last couple of months.

– We’ve been lucky, and people have been donating pretty big sums.

But now she is worried about the amount of donations and the refugees situation.

– You can’t manage, but you have to, in some way, she says.

Shirley agrees.

– We have met so many families that would not have hope if we didn’t meet them. Our goal is to help them, and we’re happy to be a part of their life.


So what is needed in the time to come?

Iris don’t have the opportunity to distribute clothes, because the police don’t want any crowds due to corona. But we need money for toiletries and pampers. That’s our highest priority, both in Vial and the city. We also need clothes for new born baby girls.

If you have the opportunity to donate money, we appreciate it very much. If not, we would be so grateful if you could share the message with your friends and families.

If you want to donate summer clothes/shoes or newborn baby girl clothes, please send us a message with what you have and we will give you the address.

If you’re a refugee living on the island who need toiletries or have a newborn, please send us your needs and your location.

Thank you to all of our supportes out there 💚

/The Iris Team <3

Vipps nummer: 584206
Account number: 1506.27.12330

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