Let’s talk about Athens.

For someone who lives or works in Victoria Square, it is not difficult to notice that the last few months have pointed out that the situation regarding people on the move has changed again.

Mennesker rundt kafebord

Many people who, until recently, lived in houses and apartments through the ESTIA Accommodation Scheme no longer met the standards to be housed; therefore, they were evicted [1]. It should be mentioned that the ESTIA Project housed families and vulnerable cases (i.e., the elderly and people with disabilities). The field teams operating in refugee camps reported that some of these cases were relocated to camps on the mainland. Further on that, it should be noted that for people who were living in apartments, and their children attending local schools, going back to refugee camps means that their until now steps toward integration come apart. This case further affects people’s mental health and the community’s attempt to be amalgamated. At the same time, as the number of people accommodated through the program was high, the rest of the cases remained with no real solution. Therefore, the expected number of homeless people is believed to rich high in numbers.

In addition, from July onwards, the Street work actors have identified that the number of new arrivals in Athens began to rise again. These are people who, after their recent entry into the country, have not gone through the registration process at the borders, and they arrived directly in the city of Athens. Among these new arrivals are people whose registration with the Greek Asylum Office is still pending; At the same time, some people need further information relevant to the registration process through the Reception and Identification Centres in Malakasa and Diavata. Therefore, ad interim, these people are undocumented and do not meet the standards to be temporarily accommodated in competent places. Furthermore, being undocumented excludes these people from further provisions and the sense of security created by possessing official documents.

Consequently, the number of homeless people and people in great need in Athens’s area began to increase again. Among these people, who are already in a vulnerable situation, are also single women, young children, and older adults. It goes without saying that a person, regardless of age and gender, is in a difficult position in the first place. The lack of housing, the inability to meet daily needs, the difficulty in obtaining food, the weather conditions, the psychological pressure experienced by people in homelessness are some of the risks that affect the physical as well as the psychological state of people. It is essential to mention that people in a state of homelessness are also exposed to other risks, such as exploitation by others (e. g., trafficking) and other crimes (Chiovenda, 2019). Even more so when there are children, women, young single men, and older adults in this situation.

Victoria Square

The above phenomenon is not a new situation in Victoria Square. In 2020, several people who had found themselves in a state of homelessness settled in Victoria Square. The situation that generated many reactions at a local and international level (MacGregor, 2020; Cosse, 2020) created another need, this temporary relief for the people in this challenging situation.

Thus, the Victoria Community Center was born, a place for refugees and asylum seekers near Victoria Square in Athens, operated by One Happy Family AMKE and Stagona (A Drop in the Ocean). The Victoria Community Centre assists people in need. The organisations in the Centre provide different kinds of projects and activities to cover many aspects of the people’s urgent but also general needs. Among the different types of provisions are a community space (which works as a place for a person to relax), non-formal education activities, Mental Health and Legal Aid support, Non-food items provision (such as diapers) and others[2]. The purpose of the Victoria Community Centre is to create a safer space where people can find help or guidance on their needs and some moments of happiness and relaxation. The different kinds of activities covered by the collaboration of various organisations assure a better and most adequate support provision. 

A Drop in the Ocean “runs activities designed to help restore a sense of normality and dignity and to help build resilience and practical skills for displaced persons[3]. Therefore, the organisation provides Non-Formal Education activities, Job readiness and other relevant activities which give the people the tools and skills to better integrate with the local community and feel more confident, despite their difficulties.

Despite this and other similar initiatives, it is essential to emphasize that the organizations operating in the centre and the outskirts of Athens cannot cope with this new situation independently. Civil society, of which we -A Drop in the Ocean-are part, does not leave people in need alone. Nevertheless, a solution which will support the organizations and the State in managing this new need more appropriately and co-organized is urgently needed.

References

Chiovenda, M. K. (2019, 02 05). Refugees in Athens: There is No Humanity in this Place. Ανάκτηση από Europe Now: https://www.europenowjournal.org/2019/02/04/refugees-in-athens-there-is-no-humanity-in-this-place/

Cosse, E. (2020, 08 20). From Chaos in Moria to Despair in Athens, Greece; Refugees Live Rough on the Streets of Central Athens. Ανάκτηση από Human Rights Watch: https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/08/20/chaos-moria-despair-athens-greece

MacGregor, M. (2020, 10 30). Victoria Square: ‘Greece and Europe have failed, together’. Ανάκτηση από INFO MIGRANTS: https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/28213/victoria-square-greece-and-europe-have-failed-together


[1] For more info, check ESTIA Eviction Statement | msf.gr & past announcement by SolidarityNow in Greek Language SolidarityNow: Λύσεις για τις εξώσεις αναγνωρισμένων προσφύγων από το πρόγραμμα ΕΣΤΙΑ (naftemporiki.gr)

[2] Find more about the project on English (victoriacc.gr)

[3] More on DiO’s programmes on How we work – Dråpen i Havet (drapenihavet.no)