1.MATCH – Social Inclusion Opportunities funded by Erasmus+
MATCH was a 24-month Sport – Collaborative Partnerships – project dealing with sport as a proper tool for social inclusion and equal opportunities, through increased participation in sport activities of teenagers and young people with fewer opportunities. It involves 6 partners from 5 European countries (Italy, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Greece & Spain) and 1 partner from Partner Country (Bosnia- Herzegovina).
The aim of the project was to start up a sustainable and continuous learning path that connects sport trainers of sport clubs, youth workers of NGOs, 2nd reception centers & communities for unaccompanied minors, 15-25 years old young asylum seekers and refugees & local youngsters from disadvantaged districts in an increased involvement in sport & educational activities. The specific objectives were: To strengthen the use of sport as a tool for social inclusion and to raise awareness about the potential of Sport;- To foster an increased participation of refugees & local young people in sport activities and to create a constructive dialogue between different social groups;- To train Youth workers and Sport Trainers to a better awareness and proper skills to use sport as a pedagogical tool to foster social inclusion of “vulnerable” target groups;- To offer learning opportunities (being coach) to sportive young people from local and migrant origins that would increase their level of social inclusion and their future job opportunities;
To foster the (re)discovery and use of public spaces for the practice of grassroots sports MATCH’s activities were divided into 5 Work Packages:
WP1- Management and Evaluation
WP2 – Development and implementation of the International TC and Local TC
WP3 – Inclusive Sport in action
WP 4 – Anti-racist sport festivals
WP5 – Dissemination and Sustainability. Pedagogical manual “Sport and Youth, “Grassroots sport in public space” campaigns and “MATCH social inclusion through sport” video will be final dissemination outputs.
2.REHAC- RE-inventing Europeans through History, Art And Cultural Learning funded by Erasmus+
The REHAC project was implemented by a partnership of different types of organizations from the Greece, Slovenia, Sweden, Norway and Italy, including education institutions of different remit (university, adult education centers, non-formal learning providers), public authorities and representatives of the civil society operating in the interests of refugees.
The partnership was led by Euracademy Association, a European-wide non-profit network of education and sustainable development practitioners and academics, devoted to capacity building of communities in rural Europe.
The target groups that were supported are the educators of refugee learners and the refugee learners themselves. The project provided learning methods, tools and resources for the training of trainers who would apply the REHAC methodology; and also learning tools and resources for the learning courses aimed to facilitate the integration of refugees in the host society and labour market. Refugees entering European countries, carrying the trauma of war or political instability are very vulnerable and need a great deal of psychological support and training to help them establish a foothold in their new country.
At the same time professionals in education and social care in many EU countries need to learn very quickly about how best to support the refugees whose knowledge of their new country may be limited and their skills in the language of their new country may be slight or non-existent. The main objectives of the project were: To design an innovative learning methodology and learning resources based on history, art and culture, freely available to education and other refugee integration professionals, leading to an introductory learning course; to ease the first steps of integration of refugees in their host country To ease the transition experienced in cultural change and start the process of building confidence and personal growth after a traumatic life-changing event;To offer basic skills and language training to refugees who are starting a new life in an EU country To enhance language skills and other non-verbal methods of communication To introduce lifelong learning to refugees;To provide ‘pointers’ to different activities such as work, self-employment, vocational work, learning for fun and social inclusion for adult learners to network educators working with refugees in different EU countries and in different learning situations, as well as other individuals and organizations working for the integration of refugees, forming a community of interest, so that they can readily exchange experiences and best practice;To influence policies makers in each partnership country to provide guidance and educational support for the expanding refugee population integrating into many EU countries.
3.Supporting Emergency Response in Greece through the provision of legal information and assistance to Persons of Concern, and through mobilizing the refugee communities in Athens to enhance a two-way communication funded by UNHCR and led by the Greek Council for Refugees:
The project aimed at reinforcing the active participation of the refugee communities within the framework of the emergency situation derived from the refugee crisis.
Thirty six refugees, asylum seekers and migrants were hired through GFR and worked as Communities Workers in several refugee camps.
It enabled to highlight the skills of refugees who have been living in Greece and to foster their inclusion in the society.
4.Refugees for Refugees, Supporting Integration, funded by Open Society Foundations:
The aim of the project was to promote the social, political and economic inclusion of newcomers through the involvement of refugee communities on one hand, while reporting the situation of refugees to relevant stakeholders in order to better advocate for their needs and rights on the other.
While a social inclusion plan is nonexistent in Greece, refugee communities are a reference point of inclusion. During the “refugee crisis”, these communities have been undertaking a key role which reaffirmed their importance as primary stakeholders and actors.
The Refugees for Refugees project bettered and facilitated the involvement of the communities in this inclusion process and supported individuals in maintaining relationships with their own cultural background while empowering them, providing essential information and improving their interactions with the host society.
5.RISE – Refugees’ Ideas and Solutions for Europe (September 2016 – March 2018), winner of the Advocate Europe Idea Challenge, led by GFR with the support of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE):
RISE attempted to change the current situation of refugees in Europe by connecting and empowering refugees and migrants across the countries of the European Union.
RISE goal was to create a sustainable refugees and migrants’ European network to share refugees’ knowledge and experience with the aim to improve refugee policies at EU level. Moreover, the project aimed at revealing refugee and migrant communities all over Europe not exclusively as beneficiaries of social services, but rather as actors, who can contribute with their expertise to smoothen their inclusion. RISE envisions a network of refugee and migrant groups across Europe dedicated to advocate for migrants and refugees’ rights at a national and EU level, allowing them to become active members of the decision-making process.
RISE is an opportunity to strengthen refugees’ and migrants’ voices at national and European level and to reveal their potential as knowledgeable and experienced partners. Currently, the network involves 22 individuals and refugee or migrant-led organizations based in 14 different European countries.
6.WhyToVote? Funded by Citizens for Europe:
Since its very beginning, the GFR has been reflecting on the need for refugees and migrants based in Greece to be better taken into consideration by policy-makers. This implied an increased awareness, understanding and interest from the refugees/migrants themselves in actively participating in the civic and political sphere of the country.
Therefore, in the framework of this project, the main aim revolved around an increased knowledge of political participation among this category of population as well as a greater interest from policy-makers in addressing their needs in this field.
More precisely, the objectives set were as follow:
– Campaigning to inform on the importance of voting during the upcoming EU elections;
– Raising awareness among the refugee communities established in Greece on issues related to the access to citizenship as well as the importance of their civic and political participation;
– Advocating towards policy-makers and the relevant authorities in order to foster their interest in taking into account refugees and migrants’ needs and impediments witnessed in related field.
The project activities considered:
1) refugees and migrants that acquired the citizenship of the country and are therefore eligible to vote.
2) refugees and migrants that are not able to vote yet but want to make their voice heard by encouraging other eligible voters to vote and acknowledge the importance and the power of their votes.
7.Statelessness and Forced Migration in Europe funded by ENS:
This project was seeking to consolidate and disseminate knowledge and tools generated in Phase I to build the capacity of regional actors, civil society, and refugee representatives to address statelessness and nationality problems faced by refugees in Europe.
Research confirmed the critical role of nationality identification in European asylum procedures on the one hand, and lack of capacity to respond to people without a nationality (or whose nationality is unclear) on the other. As we build the foundations for advocacy to secure the protection of stateless refugees and migrants and prevent new cases of statelessness arising in Europe, we have identified this lack of knowledge and capacity as an urgent need.
To address this capacity gap, we will consolidate the tools developed and build a dedicated online resource on statelessness and forced migration in Europe. We will use this to secure commitment from policymakers to improve the response to statelessness; to persuade national authorities, civil society and academics to embed statelessness and nationality rights into their work; and to build connections with refugee representatives in Greece as a step towards co-developing tools and sharing advocacy spaces with refugee community organisations on these issues.
This approach will enable us to start having the critical conversations that research indicated were needed, with communities, with civil society, and with regional bodies to incentivise and inform greater focus on statelessness by forced migration actors and ensure impact and relevance in the longer term beyond specific national contexts.
8.VoteEuropa campaign funded by the Migration Policy Group (MPG)
For the 2019 European elections, a major target group for voter turnout included young first time voters. The number of national citizens aged 20-24 in the EU-27 are 22 million or 6% of the voting-age population. This focus on young citizens misses the large number of ‘mobile’ first-time voters. Nearly 5 million immigrants—or 2% of the European electorate—naturalised as national citizens over the past decade. Add to that the record number of EU mobile citizens living in another Member State—over 11 million or 3% of the electorate that can vote in either their country of residence or citizenship. Research shows that immigrants are actually much more likely to identify as “European” than native-born Europeans are.
These pro-European mobile voters should be getting better information and support. Naturalised EU citizens are rarely targeted in European campaigns, while mobile EU citizens receive little-or-late information from government websites. As a result, the foreign-born and 2nd generation have much lower levels of awareness on European elections and much lower voter turnout than non-immigrants. VoteEuropa The Migration Policy Group (MPG) has a long-standing commitment to immigrant political participation and extensive experience of training and pilots, including our recent VoteBrussels campaign, which doubled the voter registration rate of non-Belgian voters in the Brussels local elections. Under the umbrella of this time i’m voting, MPG launched VoteEuropa: a non-partisan campaign funded by the European Parliament to encourage a diverse, mobile and welcoming Europe to vote in the May 2019 European elections.
Particularly, the campaign sought to increase the registration and voter-turnout among mobile EU citizens, naturalised migrants and refugees, young people of diverse backgrounds and citizens who care about human rights and migration issues in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, and Poland.
Enhancing Social Cohesion through Sharing the Cultural Heritage of Forced Migrations – “SO-CLOSE”
The project “Enhancing Social Cohesion through Sharing the Cultural Heritage of Forced Migrations – SO – CLOSE” will last 3 years. The mission of the project is to contribute to social cohesion and fight refugee marginalization or exclusion by facilitating the encounters between similar life stories, through the mediation of innovative digital and artistic tools.
Based on theories of cultural heritage-making, exposing the commonalities of past and present experiences, listening to the target groups’ needs and through the development of a methodology template of co-creative design of replicable digital tools and cultural products, SO-CLOSE will improve social cohesion and promote mutual understanding between refugees and their local communities.
SO – CLOSE offers the right milieu of peaceful and trustworthy mediation in which to develop cultural encounters among all those with histories of forceful displacement. Taking a collaborative and participatory approach, the project will encourage the local communities (including, where possible, survivors from past forced migrations) and the refugees have recently arrived for discussion and exchange of views.
The resulting data and methodology will be used to develop several digital applications, for which purpose we have in our consortium strong technological partners with experience in this field. Working at the intersection of history, sociology, cultural studies, art and computer science, SO-CLOSE will design educational and cultural tools like interactive cookbooks, interactive documentaries based on immersive video recording, AI-powered Chatbots, interactive exhibitions based on personal memories and storytelling or an online platform, named Memory Center, built as a content aggregator and services platform.
SO-CLOSE development will be implemented in four different pilot locations, selected due to their similarities with the present and for the actual existence of memory and intangible cultural heritage:
– VDA, Krakow (Poland)
– Trikeri Island Concentration Camp (Greece)
– MUME de l’Exili (Spain)
– MONTE Marzabotto (Italy)
Planned Memory Center interactive platform with its embedded repository of multimedia content and advanced services, will be a global instrument transforming old-fashioned museums in Living Labs through designing new cultural experiences based on the cultural heritage of refugees addressing to generate social awareness.
Refugee-led community organisations (RCOs) play a crucial role within society and ample research has highlighted this. RCOs provide a bridge support to newly-arrived refugees, facilitating swifter integration by offering basic information on procedures and daily life, provide language and cultural orientation training, support refugees wishing to contribute to lost societies and, generally, assist in the normalisation process of making a host community become home.
They also promote engagement with the wider community and see their role as uniting and strengthening the community, promoting the culture, faith and the language of the community, building confidence and creating an active, healthy community. Many refugees are keen to establish different forms of organisations, with different missions, yet face a number of barriers which often impede the active realisation of strong and effective organisations.
If Europe is to move towards more inclusive, rights-respecting and dignified laws and policies, both internally and externally, refugees must be elevated to the status of equal advocating partners through organised (formal or informal) community organisations and the role of RCOs must be identified as one of the key interlocutors between refugees and host communities.
The main aim of this project is therefore to see a dramatic improvement in the quality of enjoyment of human rights by refugees and is based on the idea of supporting the active inclusion of marginalised, vulnerable or excluded communities. With this, the project seeks to strengthen refugee inclusion by supporting the empowerment of those refugees who want to play an active role in their communities and at the EU level. Through the project, community needs, strengths and trends will be identified, and we will seek to produce an educational package that will tackle these challenges and provide improved skills to overcome them.
Part of our project will be a training programme which will be geared at supporting the mobilisation of refugees into organised and effective communities that will be active in various spheres such as peer-to-peer support, provision of information or other community-based services, advocacy with national governmental stakeholders in order to bring the voice of excluded groups to the attention of policy-makers, engagement in public awareness-raising, talking directly from the heart of their represented communities.
This will be the Training Kit, our ultimate deliverable which will address the challenges faced by refugees in integrating effectively in their host countries.The Training Kit will contain content addressing RCOs who wish to be active at a national level, together with training content addressing RCOs who wish to be active at a European level and will then be available to the public and thoroughly disseminated throughout the Partners’ networks.
Thanks to the project’s combination of community-based consultation, desk-research and synergising transnational expertise, it will be based on an in-depth understanding of the needs and strengths of RCOs and refugee communities, seeking to fill those skill and knowledge gaps that hinder RCOs from being effective partners in advocacy at national and European levels.
Partners: https://aditus.org.mt/, Cyprus Refugee Council, Dutch Refugee Council, European Council on Refugees and Exiles, Greek Forum of Refugees, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), Mosaico – Azioni per i rifugiati. With Syrian Volunteers Netherlands as Associated Partners.
For more information: https://aditus.org.mt/
Effective and Respectful Mental Health Support – ERMES II
ERMES II started as a continuation of ERMES I, however, we understood that the main needs to cover in the field were the community interpreters/cultural mediators training in Mental Health issues. Through the research that was accomplished during ERMES I, it was noticed that there is a gap in the training of community interpreters/cultural mediators, especially on mental health issues. The reasons for that are many. First of all, Greece became a reception country for refugees and migrants in the last five years. As a result, most of the relevant stakeholders and NGOs are making efforts to develop training courses for community interpreters/mediators, but everything is still at a primary level. Furthermore, in some cases, community interpreters/cultural mediators are trained through a fast track process and this has the effect of not getting all the necessary equipment and tools for more efficient performance. So, in order to make steps forward, it was believed that efforts should be guided by examples and good practices implemented by countries with high experience such as the UK, Canada, and Australia.
Through the ERMES project, the Greek Forum of Refugees managed to train a number of interpreters and the results were very satisfactory. This led us to the decision to continue this specific training as there are many needs still in the field. Thus, the aim of the program is on the one hand to train community interpreters/cultural mediators on mental health issues who are already working in the field and at the same time to update and evolve the existing toolkit that we have created through ERMES in order to improve the mental health services that are provided to refugees, migrants and asylum seekers and on the other hand to improve our contact-making activities with relevant stake-holders and especially social services in order to highlight the importance of these training courses. During ERMES II as well it was addressed the diverse challenging reality due to COVID-19.
All material was adapted in order to match accordingly with the new times. ERMES II was launched as a webinar version during the COVID19 lock-down successfully. ERMES II is still ongoing and, due to the webinar adaptation, we reach still more community interpreters/cultural mediators in other locations in the mainland as well as in the islands. Because of this successful adaptation of our material to a webinar version where we can provide our services to more locations in Greece and because we had understood other needs in the field such as self-care and supervision for community interpreters/cultural mediators; COVID-19 new reality in health promotion and GBV prevention, as well as the comprehension of institutionalization in refugee communities.
Continuation of the empowerment for effective refugee participation in the local society:
The Greek Forum of Refugees team assesses, after all these years of working on capacity building, active participation of refugees, and self-advocacy, that it is crucial to continue our work on all levels in order not only enhance and promote social inclusion of refugees, but also provide them with all the necessary tools, methods and in some cases materials in order for them to move forward to integration.
At this point it is very important to mention that the last period the Greek Forum of Refugees focused its efforts not only to highlight the importance of self-advocacy, representation of refugees and migrants in every level and the set-up of projects, but also to respond fast and effectively to the crisis that emerged due to the pandemic COVID-19 and the consequent lockdown as many refugees forced to move out of their houses or abandon the camps they were living and as a result they became homeless. This situation was compounded by a not friendly policy and strategy pursued by the government, which resulted in many refugees seeking basic assistance and support in order to survive as they could not meet even their basic daily needs. All these circumstances have led the GFR to redefine its way and field of action, as now our activities are targeted at both the ground level, meaning the camps and the urban settings through the support of initiatives of the refugees themselves, and at the same time enhance self-advocacy towards inclusion on a national and European level.
The Self-Advocacy Team (SAT):
Based on its experience of mobilizing and empowering the refugee communities in Athens, the GFR is determined in continuing its endeavor for the civic engagement and effective inclusion of refugees and migrants.
As the GFR embodies self-advocacy and the self-organization of the communities, the creation of the Self-Advocacy Team (SAT) serve this purpose in an extraordinary manner; composed by members of several different nationalities that will enhance their skills through workshops, interactions with the communities and other similar activities, the SAT will continue to advocate for a holistic social inclusion empowering their voice and visibility with the aim of influencing policy makers and, at the same time, providing essential feedback from the field, at a national level, on a constant basis.
The SAT initiative is an innovative idea that introduced for the first-time refugee and migrant Self-Advocacy for Political and Social inclusion in this country. The fact that it is a mixed nationality group that manages to surpass political religious, race and gender orientation issues provides more impact to their role and arguments as advocates.
The SAT’s experience on the field and, most importantly, due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the consequent lockdown, compelled the team to align its orientation and approach to this new reality. The SAT, through the GFR’s campaign to help the invisible people of our society (GFR’s Campaign), got the opportunity to engage first hand with it and was able, simultaneously, to gather information from the people in need about the problems they face under the lockdown.
In other words although the GFR embodies self-advocacy, it is always and will be ready to respond to future crisis in the most efficient way. The upcoming era, brings a series of changes from social aspects to high politics and the need of Community Navigators (CN), especially in Greece, is imperative. Information plays a crucial role in this situation and it’s a twofold procedure; Providing official and updated info to the refugee and migrant communities either in camps or urban settings, is a powerful tool to combat fake news and misconceptions and obtaining first hand feedback, coming from the people themselves, will help us have a clear image of how the laws and the imposed measures actually function on the ground level. Especially now, under the circumstances we are living in, (COVID-19 pandemic, evictions, homelessness etc) the need of supporting such initiatives is more crucial than ever.
Self-advocacy and self-organization constitute the core ideals of the GFR, making the SAT a means towards this end; an abrupt lack of funding will devastate the infrastructure we are striving for and will have as a consequence the loss of important and first-hand information deriving from the communities and the refugee camps.
The Greek Forum of Refugees Team (GFR Team) was created in the context of the implementation of the MATCH – Social Inclusion Opportunities (January 2017 – December 2018) project, which was funded by Erasmus+ and coordinated by CESIE.
MATCH promoted an intercultural vision of our society and achieved to break down barriers of racism, hardship and degradation through sports activities and at the same time understanding the importance of sports as a social vehicle for discussion and socialization for people coming from different districts and different countries. Our contribution to this project was to foster increased participation of refugees and local young people in sports activities and create a constructive dialogue between different social groups. Thus, we managed to achieve this goal through the creation of the GFR team and more precisely by using sports activities as a tool for a greater inclusion of marginalized groups.
The team was gathered under the idea of attending social inclusion through sports. The Greek Forum of Refugees recruited youths who were interested in sports, living in refugee camps and generally in the urban settings. This football team has become a rallying point for a significant number of people. These people found a place where they feel the sense of belonging and football has turned to be a very powerful tool for bridging cultural differences. The team achieved its basic aim which was to unite and empower different and diverse refugee communities, creating space for a cultural dialogue. But most importantly, the team has provided these people with a common cause.
The team aims to fulfill three main goals:
- To activate refugees living in the camps or in the urban area, getting them out of the limbo situation which keeps them excluded, providing them at the same time a creative and alternative way-out from their daily burdens.
- To enhance their social inclusion by highlighting the importance of the interaction between them and the local society through sports.
- To bring closer the diverse refugee communities that are set-up in Athens in order to consolidate their cultural differences and promote solidarity among them through dialogue and sports activities.
- To scout for young talented players with a refugee background, living in the camps or in urban settings, aiming to recruit them and highlight their unique talent as a tool of improvement.
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee – Continuation of supporting employability & entrepreneurship:
The funding of UUSC is focused on two main target groups. Women empowerment and self advocacy for members of refugee/migrant communities in camps and in urban settings and it is a scale up of the pilot projects on “window to employability & entrepreneurship”.
The project is based on the results of a series of workshops on employability issues that will be held in GFR and our aim is to provide support in the professionalization and sustainability of activities led by women. They are provided with relevant knowledge and inputs supporting a labor market-oriented approach, thus setting their skills within a vocational framework. Secondly, to realize the civic & political inclusion of different refugee/migrant communities including individuals in camps. In order to achieve this, we will focus on a group of individuals from different communities that will be introduced to advocacy and self-advocacy issues through workshops and activities (communication, public speaking, leadership, self-organization).
Following that, they will be able to transfer the knowledge gained from the workshops to their own communities.
HARTS – Hands on Refugees Talent and Sustainability
The efforts of the Greek Forum of Refugees to empower refugee women by promoting their talents and skills created the “Harts”.The HARTS initiative was started in 2016 by Ms. Kalpakioti Fotini and aims to empower refugee women to become strong through improving their skills.
But what is a HARTS lab? The HARTS workshop is not only where art begins but, above all, it is the time and place of women’s empowerment where they design, train and support each other through their creations. This is a place of private meeting between them, away from the difficult daily life outside the hospitality structures, where they share stories, experiences and skills regarding traditional handicrafts. The HARTS workshop is a recognition of what refugee women can bring, and a way to be encouraged and self-reliant to become autonomous. The HARTS workshop provides professional support to help refugee women improve their skills, as well as to market their products, in order to create a sustainable empowerment initiative.
Proceeds from this event are given to their creators, as well as any donations used to purchase supplies, tools and conduct language seminars, start-ups for women, learn new skills, recognize the value of their skills and how to cultivate them.