Winter 2020: Refugee Youth Centres Greece

by Action for Education
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Winter 2020: Refugee Youth Centres Greece
Winter 2020: Refugee Youth Centres Greece
Winter 2020: Refugee Youth Centres Greece
Winter 2020: Refugee Youth Centres Greece
Winter 2020: Refugee Youth Centres Greece
Winter 2020: Refugee Youth Centres Greece
Winter 2020: Refugee Youth Centres Greece
Winter 2020: Refugee Youth Centres Greece
Winter 2020: Refugee Youth Centres Greece
Winter 2020: Refugee Youth Centres Greece
Winter 2020: Refugee Youth Centres Greece
Winter 2020: Refugee Youth Centres Greece
Winter 2020: Refugee Youth Centres Greece
Winter 2020: Refugee Youth Centres Greece
Winter 2020: Refugee Youth Centres Greece
Winter 2020: Refugee Youth Centres Greece
Winter 2020: Refugee Youth Centres Greece

We each remember the past 3 months in our own way.

We each experienced different lockdowns and differing challenges. 

The announcement of lockdown came quickly in Greece. Overnight, our centres were closed and our volunteer teams rendered housebound. Across the country, the nationwide refrain ‘μενουμε σπιτι’ (‘We stay at home!’) rang dark and ironic as refugees stayed stuck in tents and overcrowded containers. 

 We entered this period with confusion and concern. Would the virus spread rapidly through the island camps? How would the underfunded local hospitals cope with patients that bring with them serious underlying health conditions? How long would this continue - and what would it mean for our organisation - operating with small reserves and short-term funding?

But as we met to plan the coming months, we were sure of one thing. We knew we would look back on this period and say: we did all we could in the hardest of circumstances. 

 Our centres may have closed; our movement may have been restricted; our impact reduced. Nevertheless, we have still fought to make a difference.

 And as the political and social context descended into chaos; as the world seemed to use COVID-19 as a pretext under which to commit yet more atrocities and human rights violations, we kept active. We have demonstrated against these transgressions in word and deed.

This report looks back on what took place between April and June, 3 months spent largely under lockdown. From emergency responses to camp fires; from new ways of supporting unaccompanied minors to far-reaching advocacy campaigns and action days; from open letters and joint statements to fundraisers and public awareness initiatives; from renovations to the re-opening of our centres, this report looks back on the recent past with positive conviction. 

And as we take the next steps forward into a future changed by violence and virus alike, we stand stronger than ever.

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As we began the new year in Greece, so too did we mark Action for Education’s second birthday. Yet we did so at a time when conditions on the islands have grown worse than ever before. 

Since August 2018, the population of asylum seekers on the islands has more doubled, from 20,000 to over 42,000. Yet apart from the promise to build yet more camps, there has been no direct response by EU or Greek governments to ensure timely asylum procedures and humane reception conditions. 

In February, with the bitterness of winter still keenly felt in the camps, widespread violence spread across the islands. Turkey announced a temporary opening of its borders to Europe, the Greek government placed a ban on new asylum applications and island populations took to the streets when the Greek prime-minister announced the construction of new hotspot camps.

This led to a series of attacks on police forces, NGO buildings and humanitarian aid workers and saw the temporary closure of NGO centres (including our own). Just two weeks later, all centres were closed once again as a preventative measure related to COVID-19. The culmination of these political, humanitarian and health crises has created a perfect storm, depriving asylum seekers of their most fundamental rights and civil society of the ability to monitor human rights concerns in the camp. 

Yet amidst these challenges, we have taken great steps. Aside from our existing projects, we have renovated a new centre on Chios that stands ready to welcome hundreds of new teenagers and young adults, and we have launched a European-wide campaign, Europe Must Act, calling for an end to this geopolitical stalemate.

In the following pages of our first 2020 Quarterly Report, we explore, examine and reflect upon social and organisational developments in light of a series of unsettling and unforeseen circumstances.

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As the past 5 months have seen the highest numbers of refugee arrivals to Greece since the crisis began in 2015, we at Action for Education remain firm in our committment to stand with refugees across Greece and continue filling gaps, providing safe spaces, nonformal education, and basic essential services. 

This past quarter, we have continued to serve young adults, women and children through our 6 different centers in Athens and the hotspot islands of Samos and Chios. Offering services six days a week, we provide 300 hot showers, 720 fresh meals, and over 160 hours of direct service through education classes and creative projects each week. 

Furthermore, in the aftermath of the devestating October fire in the Vathy Camp in Samos, we came together with other actors on the island to lead a successful emergency appeal, raising over €27,000 to replace tents, sleeping bags and tarpaulins. 


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Organization Information

Action for Education

Location: Chios - Greece
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Action4Edu
Project Leader:
Jacob Warn
Samos, Greece

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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