Article by Jodie
Arriving in Athens I was welcomed to the house of Greek and International volunteers, where they shared their experiences and the strategies which are working late into the night.
Some of them kindly arranged for me to visit places where refugees are being cared for, so that I could discuss if they had any need that Refugee Aid could support.
As a general overview Greece hosts approximately 60,000 refugees. Speaking to workers and some Syrian families, on average the Syrian people are paying 6,000 Euros per person to arrive here. People from Afghanistan, Iran, Kurdistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Eritrea and from various countries in the African continent are also paying huge sums of cash just to arrive here.
From my experiences here so far the Greek people are being hugely hospitable and through great adversity are doing all they can to support the people who have had to flee their homelands.
Syrian arrivals are able to apply for refugee status, otherwise they are given one months leave to remain in Greece, regardless of whether they are a minor, after which they are deported to Turkey.
The EU are paying the Turkish Government to run camps widely regarded as substandard. Local Athenian volunteer workers told me that they were motivated to action as a community, when it became evident young children were sleeping alone in the city squares.
The number of individuals and families arriving is increasing daily, all of whom are living unsheltered in the streets. The temperature is -4 degrees C at night.
With no immediate strategy in place from local government several groups of activists in Athens began to develop local community based solutions which care for, feed and provide accommodation for large numbers of refugees, in the form of squatted buildings around the city centre.
A group of ten international and 20 local volunteers run this place which houses 400 refugees, 185 of whom are under 18. The residents have access to medical care, education including learning new languages and access to legal advocacy, all given free of charge by local Greek professionals.
The building is 7 stories high, each family has a private room and same sex individuals share rooms. In the basement is the kitchen, which the head chef proudly showed me and said the quality of food was extremely important at City Plaza.
The group have been running this building for the last 6 months relying on local food donations from local wholesalers and one or two foreign philanthropists. They are a community based non-faith group that promotes peace and co-operation.
The residents induction into the building involves speaking openly with them about the conditions of living at City Plaza – residents must try to live in peace and be sensitive and accepting of others race, religion and background.
The staff gave me a list of things they really need such as dry food and toiletries and most importantly, fresh food. They enquired about the possibility of sending funds straight to a Greek fruit and veg supplier, which will feed refugees and help the locals in the faltering Greek economy.
Tomorrow I am off to meet staff at Eleoanas camp, the first camp in Athens, and then on to a make-shift camp on a beach near Sounio on Tuesday.
Since her graduation Jodie has worked as a freelance global youth professional in the UK, Brazil, India, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Ghana for various NGOs and grassroots organisations. She has worked in child rehabilitation, managed international youth exchanges and supported young people in designing and implementing their own global citizenship, environmental or social action campaigns. She holds a Bachelor of Social Science honours degree, a Diploma in Applied Permaculture design, and qualification in child rehabilitation, conflict resolution and education for sustainability and global citizenship.
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After last years success raising over £13,400 for the Refugee Crisis and a wonderful evening to boot, we are repeating the Art Auction at the Queens Hotel, Saturday 10th December 2016, 7pm, free entry. Go to Facebook Art Auction Page.
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