Since 1 June 2020 and amid the COVID pandemic, the Greek government has been announcing the eviction of recognised refugees from their reception places they occupied during their asylum procedure, including camps, apartments or hotels, within a month of receiving status.
There are few official integration and support services for those asylum seekers who are beneficiaries of international protection. Programmes such as HELIOS, offer support in covering running expenses which are already held, meaning they need to overcome complicated bureaucratic procedures and language barriers to access them.
Greek authorities have been geared towards decongesting the hotspots on the Aegean Islands, massively transferring people to mainland Greece where access to basic services and help is scarce. As previously mentioned, once their status recognition takes place, they are deprived from all support networks, leaving many in homelessness and destitution. This situation has been pressing in urban areas especially, where most people did not have any other choice but sleeping in the streets, many of them gathering on the Athenian Victoria Square.
Families and children have been seen sleeping rough on the square and around the city centre. Denied from accessing the most basic needs, many were left within a more challenging situation than the one experienced in camps such as Moria.
This square has become the living image of what being a recognised beneficiary of international protection looks like in Greece, in Europe. So Action for Education decided to relocate the early childhood education centre from Samos Victoria Square. Even if the situation has evolved and families cannot be seen sleeping on the square or its surroundings anymore, it has become a gathering point for refugees living in the area. But it also conforms a reminder of the precarious and the volatile safety faced.
In order to help alleviate the lack of service access, our new Early Education Centre will offer more than a safe space; it will offer an opportunity for refugee families and children to learn, share and have a break from their daily struggles. An opportunity to find a space where they are welcome and treated with dignity and respect, which is the baseline of our project and work, thanks to our team on the ground.
“The Nest (Early Childhood Education Centre) will continue with the work we have been carrying for almost two years in Samos, and we may see some familiar faces of those who have been transferred to the mainland, so it would be easy to get back to our child friendly space, as many know us and know how it works! This is a more ambitious project as it will cover services for parents such as language classes, digital literacy or a casework program”.
“Services for children and parents are an increasing need, even more acute in Athens. We are delighted to provide this holistic approach to our participants and try to fill this gap to bring together our expertise and aim to keep supporting the refugee community in Athens”.
Words from our coordinators Daniele and Charlene, who are setting up the space ready to open their doors by the end of May. Due to existing collaborations with our partners PILA and Carry the Future, we put together efforts to respond and adapt our services to the changing reality many refugees face.
This visionary project aims to highlight the need of education to access other essential services. With an early childhood education at its core, it will also provide much needed services to parents, with a casework programme included helping navigate bureaucracy and paper work needed to integrate and start a life in Athens.