Athens has restricted services to those in the process of applying for asylum, leaving many without guarantees of food. Ritsona, Greece – Restrictive government decisions have cast thousands of refugees out of protective support services and are creating a hunger crisis, aid groups say. Just under 18,000 refugees live in camps on the Greek mainland. More than half – 60 percent according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a United Nations body – have no access to food services or cash handouts. Almost half are children. That is because last September, the government restricted services to those who are in the process of applying for asylum. Most camp residents do not fit that description. Some have been granted asylum, and they are entitled to benefits for only 30 days after that decision. Benefits used to be extended for six months, to support people navigating employment prospects and premises. The government cut that period down in March last year. Asadullah Sadighi and his 16-year-old daughter, Afghans living in Ritsona camp, a former air force radar base 90km north of Athens, are in this category. Sadighi told Al Jazeera: “When they give us asylum they don’t give us food or cash any more, and leave us to fend for ourselves. They take away our protection completely.” Self-styled groceries and restaurants refugees operate inside Greece’s camps are dependent on cash handouts, as well as remittances from overseas [John Psaropoulos/Al Jazeera] He has asked relatives back home to send cash. Those who have been rejected and have exhausted the appeals process have been told to leave the country – though authorities do not forcibly remove them from camp premises, because they cannot deport them back to Turkey. In theory, a 2016 European Union-Turkey deal obliges both parties to readmit rejected asylum applicants, but Turkey stopped doing so in March last year. And there is a third category of people who cannot even apply for asylum, because they are deemed inadmissible. Last June, a ministerial decision deemed Turkey a safe third country for Afghans, Syrians, Somalis, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. These nationals are no longer even processed for asylum, aid groups say, but told to apply next door, in Turkey. “Turkey does not accept returns from Greece, so these people are in a legal limbo, and one of the consequences of this limbo is that they are not eligible for food and other basic rights,” says Melina Spathari, head of Terre des Hommes, Greece. Hers was one of 33 aid organisations that wrote to the government in late October warning of the looming humanitarian crisis. They said Greece’s refusal to examine asylum applications from these five nationalities on their merits contravenes EU Directive 2013/23, which “provides that if the third country refuses to take a person back, then the State must examine the asylum application as to its substance”. ‘Legal limbo’ People who failed to register as asylum seekers upon entry in Greece are among those deemed inadmissible for an asylum process. Al Jazeera recently covered the plight of hundreds of Cubans in this category, who walked across Greece’s border with North Macedonia, where there is no registration centre. The IOM clocked Greece’s unregistered refugees living in camps in October at 3,268, but there are many living in urban centres. They used to have a single legal aven . . . read the full article here.