Refugees Communication in response to incidents in Piraeus
Yesterday, 30.03.2016, incidents occurred in Piraeus between Syrian and Afghan refugees, with the unpleasant outcome of the hospitalization of injured people. The media rushed again to cover the event… We are truly sorry for this bad incident and wish a good and speedy recovery to those injured. We also wish this incident to be the last.
Such explosive reactions obviously suggest the existence of a problem. So what is the problem? What are the responsibilities, what are the recommendations? We need a serious discussion including all the previous questions.
Once again, it has been suggested that the problem is created by refugees. Finally who are these refugees? Those who have been forced to flee hastily from their homes and countries to save their lives? They have passed through thousands of dangers and are now thrown per thousand on the street? Left without information, without any presence of authorities, without dignity? Does the problem originate from elsewhere?
Is the problem the complete lack of official, valid and proper information on the possibilities and options for these people?
Is the problem the malicious rumors spread that sow confrontation between tired and desperate people? The GFR and members of communities are there, we speak the language and listen… Maybe the problem is that in order to convince the refugees to transfer to open (for now) official reception centers, the state promises that they will find safety and decent living conditions, health care, information from the Greek authorities, access to asylum, access to the relocation program, family reunification, voluntary repatriation. With few exceptions, arriving there, what do they find? Nothing. And because they do find neither information nor decent living conditions, they leave on foot from the centers to return to informal refugee gathering points, where they hope to find alternatives. And usually these alternatives are the traffickers. It was the case in Victoria Square, where the problem was virtually solved. Today, we do not see refugees, because they are in the hands of traffickers, cramped in apartments around Athens center, in direct risk, paying highly for these “services”.
Is the problem exacerbated by the way of presenting the situation in the media? Journalism is neither children crying, nor the “incidents”. Refugee communities are open to dialogue with the media, from which we call for cooperation, responsibility and seriousness. Information can derive from authoritative bodies and official positions. The GFR and communities often helped to access prompt and accurate information.
The situation is very serious and as such must be tackled by all. Needed immediately:
1. Official, reliable and consistent advice and information at all levels, at all points of arrival and gathering of refugees. So people will know their options, so that they can decide based on this information and will not be exposed to traffickers.
2. The official receptions centers must ensure humane conditions, official and reliable information.
3. Direct access to Asylum Services. A large number of refugees want to apply for asylum; however the access is almost impossible.
4. Continuous and proper communication with the refugees, with the constant presence of\r\nrefugee communities.
The communities stand by the refugees, and when the Greek authorities commit to working together to get the necessary results and to support the work of the communities, we are ready support their efforts. The communities do not participate in ineffective plans working against the interests refugees. Communities are not a tool of the authorities, but interlocutors.
Plans and proposals of the refugee communities in Greece exist based on the valuable experience and knowledge they have concerning the refugee issues. The communities are autonomous organizations with a moral obligation of correct and fair treatment of refugees, their compatriots. In this lies their\r\nreliability. Good intentions are not enough, but no one knows how to carry the message to refugees. The communities do know this and feel the duty to communicate. In all that refugees have pass through, multiple and different messages, rumors, the trust is lost, they often have no way to know where the information they receive originated. For this, clear and official information is needed. The communities can help, they can build trust.
Finally, we refer again to the broader social tension caused by these situations when they are not treated. In an exacerbation of xenophobia and racism, with all the disastrous consequences that we know to well, who will be to blame? Refugees? The situation seems explosive. Refugees are let aside and exposed. The problem is more general. It comes from the decision makers, the European Union and the Greek authorities. It does not come from the refugees. If the way of managing does not change, things will get worse and lead to more repression.
In this, we the refugee communities cannot be part.