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.
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Over the last ten years, Europe, and mainly Greece, has been experiencing a large influx of asylum seekers. This « migrant crisis » is a source of tension. Moreover, when people talk about conflict and immigration, it is commonly accepted to talk about the existing tensions between the local populations and asylum seekers. However, there are also conflicts between asylum seekers. This issue is not commonly addressed in public discussions, but it is important to understand the reasons that lead to to these conflicts between asylum seekers in order to better understand their situation and their problems. Moreover, this is important because these tensions can give a bad image of immigration. These conflicts between asylum seekers can be minor but they can also have dramatic consequences. This was indeed the case, last July when an asylum seeker of African origin was stabbed to death by an Afghan asylum seeker in the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. In order to better understand the causes of these conflicts and find possible solutions, I interviewed an asylum seeker from Syria and the president of Youth center of Epirus, Tomas Tsikos.
Conflicts between asylum seekers can happen for several reasons. On one hand, these tensions arise because of geopolitical conflicts. Asylum seekers stay with members of their religious, ethnic, or national communities. This results in conflicts between the different groups. This is the case for the Yezidis - the Kurdish-speaking minority in Syria and Iraq is neither Arab nor Muslim. In recent years it has suffered enormously from persecution by the Islamic State and many members of this community have decided to flee to Europe. Nevertheless, most of these asylum seekers have been placed in camps in Greece and are often still victims of persecution. Tomas, the president of Youth center of Epirus, explains that when he was working with MSF in Katsikas camp, the Yezidis were threatened by other asylum seekers of different nationalities because of their religious belonging. The administration of the camp then had to look for another place to house them.
Nevertheless, these community tensions can be put into perspective. Indeed, as the Syrian women living in Ioannina points out, asylum seekers are all in a similar situation. They flee war and misery to find a better life in Europe for themselves and their families. She recalls that when she crossed the Mediterranean Sea, all migrants, whatever their nationality or religion, helped each other. She also emphasizes that all asylum seekers are in the end just human. Moreover, this woman recalls that when her family lived at a camp on the island of Chios in Greece, she and her family had to live with asylum seekers from various countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. She stresses that there were no tensions between them. On the contrary, the asylum seekers showed solidarity with each other.
Furthermore, conflicts that appear to be inter-community conflicts are in reality much more related to the way of life of each group. Asylum seekers may enter conflicts not because the other asylum seekers are part of a particular community but because that person has a different way of life. This way of life is often linked to community membership, but the tensions that may result from different lifestyles are not directly related to the communities these people belong to. The experience of the Syrian asylum seeker in Ioannina is very instructive. She lives with other families with different origins and religions. Thus, tensions can arise between these families because of their different habits. For example, she points out that Christian families listen to Christian music. However, Muslim families do not want to listen to this type of music, which can cause tensions. The conception of relationships between men and women may also differ. For example, the Syrian asylum seeker indicates that Muslim families, unlike Christian families, could be embarrassed by the gender mix and by the presence of stranger men in the dwelling. Nevertheless, since these conflicts are not directly related to the community belonging of the asylum seekers, these tensions can be overcome. She notes that despite these tensions, there was "a lot of love" between these families. Christian and Muslim families mostly stayed together. They cooked and ate together, for example.
In reality, asylum seekers are much alike to Greeks than part of the population thinks. Indeed, conflicts between them are sometimes very similar to simple neighborhood conflicts. They are similar to the tensions that can exist between two Greek neighbors who disagree in their way of life, such as a neighbor making too much noise. Moreover, asylum seekers reason in the same way as most of the Greeks about the people they appreciate. The Syrian asylum seeker stressed that she did not feel close to another person because they belonged to the same community but because of their affinity. Moreover, Tomas points out that conflicts between asylum seekers are much more related to their personalities than to their nationality.
On the other hand, tensions between asylum seekers can be explained by social problems. Indeed, overcrowding in asylum seekers’ camps often causes tensions between them. This overpopulation leads to a form of competition between asylum seekers for access to certain resources such as food or simply a place to sleep. In addition, asylum seekers due to the overcrowding in the camp, cannot have access to quality medical care. This overpopulation, combined with the very poor living conditions of the asylum seekers, leads to increased insecurity in the camps. This insecurity is a source of violence and conflict among asylum seekers.
These tensions caused by social problems can also be observed in the house in Ioannina where the Syrian asylum seeker lives with her family. Her family shares a building with several families from Somalia, Nigeria, and Afghanistan. The Syrian woman notes that there are, sometimes, conflicts between the different families due to lack of space or lack of equipment. She exemplifies the lack of ovens for each family as a source of tension. These conflicts can also result, according to her, from the need to share space to dry clothes, for example.
Moreover, tensions among the asylum seekers result from their frustrations. Tomas stresses that because of the impossibility to work or go to school, asylum seekers get bored and that creates conflicts. He also points out that tensions between asylum seekers are caused by the sense of unfairness that can be felt by them due to the management of camps and accommodation facilities. For example, the administration of camps, due to lack of budget, cannot have sufficient number of translators speaking all the asylum seekers' languages. Some asylum seekers then feel neglected, which leads to increased tensions between them.
There are solutions to prevent tensions between asylum seekers. First of all, it is essential to improve their living conditions. They must be housed in decent accommodation and have easy access to the resources that fulfill the minimum needs such as food, access to health care, etc... They should not feel that they have to compete with other asylum seekers to get access to these resources. Besides, Tomas emphasizes a management of asylum seekers’ accomodations that avoids community regrouping - the administration of the accomodation facilities should avoid gathering asylum seekers of the same nationality in the same building. In addition, asylum seekers’ accomodation workers should implement activities common to all asylum seekers. He also advises to treat all of them equally and not to manage the accomodations by separating asylum seekers by communities. For example, when the accomodation administration wants to provide information, it should not address the various communities separately. Moreover, tensions between asylum seekers could be avoided by better anticipation of possible community conflicts between them. Thus, it would be necessary to train people who work with asylum seekers on these issues and to create more job positions for cultural mediators to defuse the underlying conflicts.
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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.
The global health crisis caused by covid-19 is paralyzing entire countries, forcing them to put in place drastic measures to contain and limit the risks of spread and contamination.
This epidemic has in part weakened the associative world, but it’s necessary to continue aid within the limits of what is possible.
About this virus
Coronavirus is a family of viruses that can cause many diseases. In humans, they cause respiratory infections, from colds to severe lung infections that cause acute breathing difficulties. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced that covid-19 may be qualified as a pandemic. Since its origin in Wuhan, China, the coronavirus has spread to every continent in the world except Antarctica. On March 10, 2020, all countries of the European Union are now affected by covid-19.
Greece did not escape the covid-19 disease, with fewer victims than in other European countries. Indeed, the Greek government quickly put in place strict restrictions to combat the spread of the virus. On Wednesday, October 21, 2020, Greece had 528 deaths due to the coronavirus. Given this epidemic context, the solidarity of all remains essential to continue to support people already in health and/or social difficulties.
Faced with covid-19: let’s remain united and volunteer
The pandemic has created a pressing need for assistance and social support, beyond the serious and urgent medical care treated on a daily basis. In these difficult times, more than ever, we need solidarity and mutual aid. This is why every citizen can help by volunteering, for example by committing to a volunteer mission.
Indeed, the health crisis at covid-19 is disrupting international travel around the world. But some young people have the opportunity to travel outside their home countries thanks to European volunteering. This represents a voluntary, personal and active commitment.
To sum up the European Solidarity Corps aims to foster solidarity in European society, engaging young people and organisations in accessible and high-quality solidarity activities. It offers young people volunteering activities, traineeships or jobs, or run their own projects.
For a few weeks now, several young people form different European countries have committed themselves to a volunteer mission with non-profit orgabnisation “Youth Center of Epirus” in the city of Ioannina in Greece. The mission consists in accompanying a team in recreational and educational activities for children and teenagers seeking asylum. Even if the pandemic hinders certain missions, such as the one with children, for example, they continue to be useful at other levels. Indeed, for the past few months, some associations supporting migrants have been slowing down or putting activities on hold, while others are maintaining the essentials.
The word of a volunteer: “I didn’t want to leave this experience aside because of the covid, on the contrary it pushes me even more to commit myself and help people in need.”
Through this, it is important to realize that associations are always in need of volunteers. The maintenance of solidarity in some associations, as here with the accompaniment of migrants, is essential in this health crisis that we are going through.
Adapting to continue to accompany
As we have seen, covid-19 has caused a health and socio-economic crisis of unprecedented proportions. It affects all of us, but especially fragile populations, where refugees and migrants are often found. In 2019, according to the International Organization for Migration, more than 16 000 migrants will have reached the Greek coasts by 2019. It has thus once again become the first country of entry for migrants from the EU.
During the crisis, the Greek government took very strict measures to try to perfect these vulnerable people as much as possible. For example, when the country was deconflicted, some migrant camps remained confined. These measures had consequences for these people, including isolation and even exclusion. This is why it is important to accompany this public while adapting and taking into account the various restrictions.
For these people already in social difficulties, the social link is important, even more so when they are young migrants. Indeed, for the team of European volunteers, their intervention on the Geek territory is partly limited to working on online content creation and providing recreational and educational time to unaccompanied minor asylum seekers. These young people are welcomed in an accommodation facility that only accompanies boys aged between 12 and 17 years old. In the common areas, the wearing of masks is compulsory. Despite certain restrictions, it is essential to continue the accompaniment.
The word of a volunteer: ”Young people seem happy to see new people, like us, volunteers from different countries. They are smiling and always motivated for fun activities. I think it brings them a bit of change in their daily life.”
It’s everyone’s responsibility to contribute to improvement of the health situation in Greece and Europe. Nevertheless, uncertainty about the future of the epidemic remains, as the return of the circulation of the virus, active or moderate in the short or medium term, cannot be excluded. Therefore, let’s continue to remain supportive as well as cautious.
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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