The "Wall of Voices" or "τΗχος" was created with an intention to offer young adults a space for reflection on social issues in the European and local society. Here you will discover various essays, galleries, videos and content projects created by our volunteers in 2020.
Μέσα από το χιούμορ ορισμένα κοινωνικά μηνύματα αποτυπώνονται καλύτερα.
Το βίντεο δημιουργήθηκε από τους εθελοντές του European Solidarity Corps καθώς και από εθελοντές της περιοχής.
One of the most important trends that is taking place in the global context over the last decade is the movement of high number of people arriving in the European Continent across the Mediterranean Sea. Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing from their birthplaces seeking for safety and protection. Migration flows from North Africa and Middle East to Europe have become an urgent political issue, both for territories of origin and destination.
This event has been named as the European migrant’s crisis. But the concept of “crisis” has always been embedded in the Eurocentric way of seeing things and it is linked to migration from the global south to the north; hence, it is strongly connected to postcolonialism and the west’s military strategies since the new world order has been established. If we see the situation from a global perspective, we see that most of the displacements are do not happen from south to north but from south to south territories. Apart from this, due to globalization phenomenon, the current migratory flows affect all five continents in both their migratory aspect and ideological, political, and religious aspects. Countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, or Pakistan face strong conflicts leading to war and violence. First lesson to learn is that as European citizens, we normally see the problem from a single point of view; and what it is more revealing, we only see the problem when it is affecting us directly.
During the past years, this situation was got more critical after the official closure of the European Union emergency relocation scheme in 2018. This policy means that certain border countries as Greece, along with Italy, bear much of the responsibility for those people who have reached Europe, since the support from the European Union to relocate people arriving by sea to other European Union Member States has been limited. Taking into consideration that Greece is one of the most important entry points to Europe, nowadays the 50,000-plus asylum seekers in Greece have more difficulties to legally travel within Europe; most will likely remain in Greece turning the country into a limbo for them.
Most of those people staying in Greece enter the country from Turkey to the islands of Kos, Chios, Lesvos and Samos; it is in these islands where they live in overcrowded and dangerous conditions as they wait months to register their arrival. Additionally, Greece is facing their own economic, social, and political problems. The damages of the financial crisis of 2008 still have impact on Greek population in many ways.
With this overwhelming situation for the country, the discourse of hate and fear of migrants is taking strength among the Greek population. A spring 2018 survey from the Pew Research Center about how people in Greece see marginalized migrants concluded that around 69% Greeks supported taking in refugees from countries where people are fleeing war and violence. On the other hand, a great majority of Greeks (92%) said they disapproved of the way the European Union had been handling the refugee issue.
From a marginalized migrant’s perspective, they may feel there is no “place” for them when they arrive in Europe, they also see there is not a strong effort of handling this issue and furthermore, they start to see and feel the racism. They are sometimes treated like criminals just because they come from a certain country. If we think about it, in many cases, the natural resources and commodities coming from these Middle East and North African regions have more value than their own citizens.
What I can say from my own live experience is that, first of all, I come from a European country that is also a point of entry for people trying to look for a better live in the wealthy Europe. Spain also struggles with handling the migration flows and that cultivated extreme nationalism and foreigner hatred. I feel I belong to Europe; my studies are focused on the field of cooperation and development and I have worked for several NGOs assisting marginalized people. Now I live in Greece, more specifically in the Epirus region, and I take part in a European volunteering program that helps to make recreational activities for children of one of the accommodation facilities for asylum seekers in this region. I am actively living with Greeks and I realized about their hospitality and generosity. From another hand, I was not familiarized with the reality of this region about marginalized migrants and refugees, but I started to understand the situation when I started talking with locals about this. That is what it took me to write this article.
It has been since 2016 when the Epirus region started to receive the first asylum seekers. It means that the hosting of asylum seekers has become a new reality from 5 years ago till now. They come from countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, or Somalia; and the region is currently hosting ~15 different ethnicities. This is one of the main differences I see when compared to other regions, and it is a fact that Epirus was not used to host asylum seekers. That does not mean that the region is not familiar with receiving migrants in the past, for instance, historically there have been many waves of migration from Albanian communities to Epirus.
Youth Center of Epirus currently carries out a project called “Operation of Unaccompanied Minors, Agios Athanasios”, mostly funded by the European Union and also by the Greek government. The project ensures accommodation and care to 40 unaccompanied minors, aged 12 to 18, who are asylum seekers. It provides all supplies to prepare properly for their adulthood rather than their stigmatization and marginalization; this is safety, food, education, social support, integration, etc. They are waiting to formalize their situation here in Greece and YCE supports this process. Formalizing their legal situation means obtaining or not obtaining a status of a refugee and possibly, in some cases, family reunification is part of the process if they have a family in Europe.
After experiencing a couple of months in Ioannina and having listened to the local people, I got into the conclusion that there are some parts of the population that are against policies that support this new wave of migration. As well as there are people against the project for unaccompanied minors who express it with actions. What came to my mind when listening these opinions is that local people may be dreaded about losing job opportunities that are already very limited for them in some cases; they may think the touristic flows will be reduced because of the arrival of these newcomers or they may also think they came to commit criminal acts.
But what I have seen from my own experience is that this fear of unfortunate people coming from abroad is not the solution. First, we cannot assume that all these people are “dangerous” for us. I really believe that we must offer a different way of seeing migration. From my point of view, what we must wonder about it why are these people leave behind all their possessions and go on journey with an uncertain ending? They may be fleeing from violence and war, from oppression or only looking for better live conditions. In any case, we will probably realize that anyone anywhere in the world tries to find a better place to live. The reality is that we have created this world division, this inequality. It is the legacy of colonialism and the massively unequal world where we live.
Then we must ask ourselves, why do these conflicts in those regions happen? We can realize that this is a global political and geopolitical issue and our governments are also responsible for the wars and development differences among these regions. From my perspective, the best we can do is to put all our efforts in challenging the system that enables the marginalisation of social groups and racial segregation.
But, are we able to change the system as individuals? For me, it is clear that the answer is no, we are not able to achieve a change acting just as individuals, but we can resort to individual responsibility to get the collective responsibility. What it is understood by responsibility it is the ability to treat and manage a specific phenomenon. We have seen that the European Union is not able to solve all local problems, so we cannot leave all the responsibility on higher level decision makers from the European Union. Changes should come from a local level: with the participation of all types of administrations, especially local ones; with the help of associations, social movements and NGOs and with the principle that coexistence in a mestizo society is possible -this has happened during most of the history of humanity. In this way, we will be able to elaborate social policies that give attention to marginalized migrants and do not treat them as second-class citizens, but as people with identical rights to those citizens with whom they live and work with. There is also a real need for programs that help these people to truly join the Greek society, so that they can contribute as citizens. We should also trust in European Union’s resources that support integration programs, since integration is key to ensuring that those newcomers build successful lives in what is their new home.
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