The Radcliffe Foundation is proud to announce a joint venture in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki in partnership with the Greek Ministry of Migration. Canadian philanthropist, businessman, and founder of the Radcliffe Foundation Frank Giustra, along with American philanthropist Amed Khan, finalized the paperwork to rehabilitate an abandoned clothing factory to provide housing for 800 refugees — many, women and children.
The public-private partnership will create humane living conditions and allow refugees to participate in the process, giving them a say in their own welfare. The Radcliffe Foundation will collaborate with local volunteer groups as well as domestic and international NGOs to create the refuge. This announcement comes at a vital time with the closure a week ago of the informal border refugee camp in Idomeni, in which around some 10,000 refugees lived in squalid conditions.
This partnership, in building a safe home for refugees, is unprecedented in Greece and the Radcliffe Foundation hopes it will inspire other organizations to take similar steps. The Radcliffe Foundation hopes to shift some pressure off the Greek government in this collaboration by managing the design, location, and initial logistics of the new facility.
“The conditions that refugees face are heartbreaking,” said Frank Giustra, founder and president of the Radcliffe Foundation. “Our goal in this project is not only to house these people — especially women and children — in safe, comfortable conditions, but equally importantly, to restore their dignity by treating them as human beings.”
“We collectively, as an international community, have backed ourselves into a dire situation and only real leadership and significantly more political will and funding will begin to address it,” said Amed Khan, the project’s director. “This project will hopefully set the path for others, just like it, that put humanity above all else.”
The Radcliffe Foundation will focus on caring for the most vulnerable refugees who have been living in the makeshift Idomeni refugee tent camp, while the Greek government will pay for rent and utilities as well as provide security.
The design for the building will address the most common concerns voiced by refugees such as the lack of privacy, education opportunities, and meaningful opportunities to participate.
“We have spent time with our team asking what the refugees themselves want,” said project manager Mike Zuckerman. “We want to include them as much as possible in the process.”
The refuge will consist of 140 units, which will house no more than six people each. The units at the factory will focus on semi-permanent and proper structures, meaning there will be no tents. All units will be fitted with doors and windows.
The Syrian civil war has displaced or killed more than 12 million people – over half of the country’s pre-war population.