Humanitarian organisations welcome the transition to Greek Government management of all aspects of service provision for asylum seekers on the Greek islands and for unaccompanied children throughout Greece. However, as this transition begins, and the European Commission scales down support for humanitarian assistance currently provided by nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), there are growing concerns over the potential for deteriorating living conditions and diminishing access to essential services, as few details have been released about the plans for how this handover will be implemented.
What can you do in 28 days? – Get a new job? Plan a trip? Read a book?
28 days, for most of us, passes by in a blink of an eye. Now imagine, you’re in a strange country, you don’t speak the language, you’ve gone through a long and arduous asylum process.
You finally gain asylum and the relief is almost indescribable. However, following the asylum, you are told you have 28 days to find accommodation and then you’re homeless.
28 days, no alternative.
Most refugees in the UK are living in some of our largest city where housing is difficult to find for many who have jobs and speak the language. Add to that a lack of support with relevant paperwork and needless bureaucratic processes. For those who’ve recently claimed asylum in the UK it is almost impossible and many end up homeless.
By pushing people into destitution we are creating a problem that doesn’t need to be. Once someone is homeless it becomes even harder to address education, employment and health issues.
In a recent article with the Independent, Anas from Syria explained, how he was left unable to access jobseekers support or secure accommodation after the Home Office made a spelling mistake on his official paperwork, which resulted in him spending five months homeless, jobless and without any financial support.
“Isis and Assad mean that it’s no longer safe for me at home. When I arrived in Britain I was so thankful to have been offered safety. All I wanted was to be a good person and give back to the country which sheltered me – but I couldn’t for no better reason than because my paperwork was wrong and it took five months to fix it. I will always be grateful to Britain, but I will never understand a system which stops people like me from getting on my feet and contributing to society.”
People seeking asylum in the UK are looking for a fresh start in safety, and in order to do that many people seek to integrate and gain education and employment as soon as possible.
100% of students between the ages of 18 and 60 on our RefuAid language program are going on to higher education or requalification in a previous profession. Without programs such as this many would be forced into survival jobs or unemployed and facing huge language barriers to integrate into the community.
To continue to support the RefuAid: Language, A Gateway program we need you’re help, £785 pays for a student to gain the qualification they need for university or employment, it’s a life-saving opportunity if you’re able to support today please visit: www.refuaid.org /donate
Have a spare room in your house and want to help someone facing destitution, consider becoming a host with our friends @RefugeesAtHome, visit www.refugeesathome.org/ to find out more.
There is one aspect that, above all else binds us, in having an impact upon the course of our lives.
It has become more and more apparent to me that the opportunities that we are each afforded and the resources that we are granted access to, are all pre-determined by one entirely subjective factor - our place of birth.
By virtue of birth, I have been able to grow up in a peaceful country, gain a solid education, enjoy the liberties of freedom of speech. I have enjoyed many holidays abroad and explored vast corners of the world, crossing effectively whichever border I have wanted. My Australian passport has meant that I live in an essentially borderless world. I am one of the lucky ones, I am ‘free’, but only because this is what my Western ‘identity’ has afforded me.
And yet, like other Western countries, my country has built a fortress around the luck we have been granted. A fortress that enforces a policy of deterrence, ensuring that those who are less fortunate, those ‘others’ who are born in developing or war-torn countries, are not allowed in.
Provided no other alternative, these ‘others’ are forced to become ‘refugees’, left with no other choice but to entrust their lives with people smugglers, risking their lives on harrowing journeys, chasing the same ‘dream’ that I was lucky enough to be born into - safety.
Around the world, those fleeing their countries, are presented with three main almost impossible options; urban destitution, encampment or dangerous, violent journeys. Are we honestly living in a world, where it is almost better to stay put in a war-torn country, to keep your children close to death, than to seek safety?
Today, for millions of people around the world, the difference between living in war or peace, between wealth and poverty, between liberty and oppression, has been determined purely by constructed borders and geography.
It is now clearer than ever that borders, in place allegedly for the sole purpose of protecting societies, are producing violent consequences and only exacerbating the vulnerability of the world's most defenceless people. It is clear that the inadequacies of the current refugee response is a disaster for human rights.
We must revise the way we think about this crisis. We must revise the way we respond.
When we consider if and how we can support those who need our help the most, it is important that we reflect on the privileges and good fortunes that are afforded to us by our birthplace, and the opportunity this presents us, to help those who so desperately need it.
We are not powerless.
She won't remember the sound of war, the bombs on Damascus as her mother carried her, finally escaping across the border. She won’t remember the arduous journey on land. She won’t remember the cold on the overcrowded boat across the Mediterranean. The screams. The panic, the confusion.
But she will remember her statelessness. That feeling of not belonging.
Amena is four years old, and knows nothing of life outside this refugee camp in Greece. Little Amena has only ever known fear. She has only known fleeing and running, and everywhere, closed doors. Born into the war in Syria, her young mother escaped with her hidden beneath her arm as she grappled the tough journey alone to what was thought would be a better life, a better future.
Yes Amena is alive, but what is a life when you cannot truly live?
Amena does not know how to write, nor will she learn this year. She spends her days playing in dry mud with a group of young children, picking up left over lids and plastic, creating makeshift toys.
An entire generation of youth and children around the world are living through conflict, displacement and statelessness. How is it acceptable to so many that these children do not attend school or have access to resources? That they may become a lost generation, destined for a life without opportunity, a life reliant on charitable hand-outs or desperation?
And what of the generation to follow them?
There are currently more than 65 million displaced people around the world; more than half of which are children. And yet the world's response to these children is protracted refugee camps. The best we can offer a whole generation of children is a closed door and space to be in their already stateless limbo. It is true that in the emergency phase of a crisis, people fleeing war and persecution require large amounts of basic humanitarian support in order to sustain life.
After this, people are almost invisible, blanketed by the illusion of 'aid', the assumption that the problem is handled because the need is not addressed by large international organisations or trending in the media.
People need access to local services, education for their children, access to employment and financial capital, and safe and legal housing. All RefuAid projects focus on addressing these long-term needs that will enable children just like Amena to build a better, brighter future.
We are a tiny drop in what is a vast and growing ocean. At times it feels like with the support we have harnessed we are beginning to push back in the fight against inequality, human rights abuse and injustice. But on days like today we are reminded of the horrors and the vast expanse of what we are aiming to tackle.
This week a 16-year old was the sole survivor of yet another shipwreck. 146 people, include tiny children and pregnant women are presumed drowned, and one sole survivor.
146 people that left with no other choice, risked their lives for a chance at safety and are no longer walking, talking or laughing here on this earth. Is this the collateral of a heartless deterrence policy that politicians are comfortable with? The deaths of unborn children, needlessly drowning on our doorstep?
And a 16-year old survivor, a life that was full of opportunity, full of hope now scarred with unimaginable horror, loss and an uncertain future.
It’s needless. Deaths are a result of inappropriate policies and a lack of will to update them. Today we have heard a young Syrian man of only 25 has hung himself in the port of Athens, and refugee children as young as 9 are found to be self-harming.
The limitation we impose on people, on our brothers and sisters, who simply because of geography, have found themselves homeless and in need of support is costing lives.
Lives that could have been, ideas that could have been, families and stories that could have been, a future that could have been and we are losing them, to hate and to fear and to a lack of will.
Although the sun is shining today, it’s hard to find the smile or any laughter, knowing those tiny little babies are lying at the bottom of the Mediterranean and the world stays silent.
In the last 3 days we’ve spent £3635. This money has gone directly to our supported projects and to aid those in need.
£2200 – was spent on a BIPAP machine and masks for one of our supported hospitals in Greece. The machine assists patients breathing when suffering from cardiac failure, adult respiratory distress syndrome, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and/or pneumonia.
£150 – was spent on transporting 15 pallets of needed medication from the mainland to island hospitals.
£750 - was spent on 18 mattresses for brand-new apartments that will house refugee families and provide a new start for those trapped in squalid, tented camps in Greece.
£450 – has been spent on 18 pairs of running shoes for 25 refugee participants of a half-marathon in Greece. The team have been training in inadequate footwear and harsh conditions, yet are passionate about competing in the race alongside the host community. Your donations have made this dream a reality.
£85 – a pair of prescription glasses for an 11-year-old girl who lost her glasses on the long journey to Europe and who can now read again!
This is just an example of where your donations are spent, week after week.
Our projects aim to support both refugees stranded in camps throughout Greece, and the host communities struggling to provide for those in their area. All of our projects focus on restoring dignity, independence and opportunities for those living in affected communities.
Please, support our work today
RefuAid aim to encourage a focus on alternatives to protracted refugee camps and ensure host communities are sufficiently supported to provide essential services and give assistance to refugee communities.
Successful implementation of alternative policies requires communication and collaboration with host communities and actors at all levels. Compliance with alternative policies and the transfer from refugee camp to integrated societies is essential.
The RefuAid team have spent extensive time working with refugee communities living in camps. Housing, employment and access to local services are consistently the most requested opportunities. Currently 40% of the worlds refugees live in camps, that’s 24 million people, most often because there is no alternative. Refugee camps across the globe are diverse. They take the form of settlements, government run facilities, self-settled camps and non-profit run facilities. The typically defining characteristic of refugee camps is a limitation on rights and freedoms and therefore a limitation on people’s ability to make meaningful choices about their lives. Pursuing alternatives to refugee camps means working to remove restrictions so people have the possibility to live with dignity and independence as members of the community. The independence and dignity of refugees can be fostered by allowing refugees to fully exercise their rights, guaranteeing people can move freely, choose where they live, work, open businesses, cultivate land and access protection and other basic services. Host governments and communities may currently feel refugee camps enable easier public order and security management, allowing for better control of the movement of refugees. In addition, host governments may feel allowing refugees to integrate into society may have a negative impact on employment rates and resources. It is therefore the role of RefuAid to clearly communicate the evidence to the contrary, and provide clear examples of where integration is positively impacting local development. RefuAid will highlight the positive results on markets and economies where refugees are given full access to rights within the host community. Refugee camps can be an essential part of a humanitarian response of government and non-state actors such as NGOs in an emergency. Refugee camps often facilitate the fast and effective provision of essential resources and life-saving assistance. Camps also provide protection services with the opportunity to highlight key persons of concern with specific needs. However, whilst an important tool in the immediacy, a reliance on camp-centric humanitarian policy in a protracted refugee crisis can have a devastating impact on the future development of affected communities. Life for refugees living in camps can foster dependency and weaken the ability of people to manage their own lives causing further trauma and creating a barrier for possible solutions. Refugee camps over a protracted period distort host nation economies and can have a devastating impact on the local environment.
Enabling host communities to integrate and accommodate for refugees to reside in the community peacefully supports the ability for refugees to regain responsibility for their livelihood, family and role within the wider community. Refugees bring skills, expertise and assets as well as qualities of perseverance and adaptability as a result of their journey. Refugees who are given the tools to redevelop their livelihoods and independence will be far better placed for future development than if they had spent years’ dependent on humanitarian assistance. In numerous instances throughout the world, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa, the integration of refugees into host communities has stimulated local economies. Moreover, community-based initiatives supported, led by and involving members of the host and refugee communities promote social cohesion, reduce cultural misunderstanding and xenophobia and create better opportunities for protection. Where people work, study and play together they are better equipped to resolve differences and live peacefully. Refugee camps demand large financial investments from non-profit organisations, host governments and international bodies. The running costs of a refugee camp are considerable and, where people are unable to gain their independence, must be sustained for years, even decades. Building camps in remote locations wastes additional financial investment if/when refugees do return home. Building upon existing infrastructure within host communities and financially investing in the expansion of pre-existing services such as for education and healthcare is a more sustainable and efficient approach. It avoids duplication, is cost-effective and removes the creation and investment in parallel structures for refugee and host communities.
RefuAid’s objective is to work with host communities, governments and non-profit organisations pursue alternatives to camp-centric policies. Acknowledging that in the onset of a humanitarian crisis camps are needed to provide critical services but should always been seen as a temporary measure. Where camps are established RefuAid will work with the community, state and NGOs to plan how the camp can be a stepping-stone for future development. RefuAid will collaborate and work with all involved actors and crucially the refugee and host communities to, at the earliest possible stage, build linkages between the refugee and host communities to provide needed services on a platform for cohesion and development.
We are surrounded by activists, advocates for animal and environmental rights – we openly debate over the dinner table about the implications of purchasing imported bananas, fast-food and whether or not ‘free range’ is just a big scam. The platform for open debate has become an incredible tool for change.
Yet when it comes to the rights of 65,000,000 people, who do not know where their next meal will come from, who have lost their home, their family, their security and their identity, as a society, we sit eerily silent.
You should be 4. You should be safe. You should be here. How the world will ever explain your death to the next generation I will never know. The only true explanation will bring a shame onto ours that will scar us in history along with the worst of humanity, and rightly so.
Aylan, you should be here. You should be excitedly preparing for a new year at nursery, watching your brothers and sisters go off to school. You should be laughing and giggling and playing.
Instead your cruelly short life came to an end in the arms of a soldier, on the beaches, in the eyes of the world. Aylan there are so many who cried, your beautiful little body broke the world’s heart.
A year on there is still no explanation, there is still no humane reason why you were forced to lose your life, the big men and women who run this world should have done more. Mummy and Daddy just wanted you to be safe, to have a home and all the other wonderful things children should have.
Aylan you should know, you’ve saved more lives than anyone else I’ve ever met.
Last year, to this day, when you lost your beautiful little life the world cried, and then something stirred. Hundreds, thousands of people around the world, designers, teachers, paramedics, vets. They couldn't sit by, and they came to help, and they've saved lives.
Aylan they’re still there. I know we will never be able to explain your death but if we can take anything positive from the 2nd of September 2015 it has to be that there are thousands of people who are doing everything they can to prevent more. People who want to help.
People who wept on trains, in their homes, on the street because they know there is no world in which you should have died.
The world is still a big and scary place, there are lots of little girls and boys still without homes and in the little boats, but we won't stop trying.
I’m so sorry you were cold and no one came to help, there are so many that wanted to. There are so many people who love you, people whom you never met, but they love you so much. We love you and we won’t stop trying, there is always space, here in our hearts, on our streets, in our schools.
I promise we will try, the ones of us who know, who understand you just want a place to play, to grow, to learn. We won’t stop trying. Sorry will never be enough but it’s all we have left. My little brother we are so sorry.
So many people are thinking of you today, people who never saw your soft and cheeky smile are thinking of you, hoping you are at peace. Our hearts are broken. All you ever knew was war I hope it’s peaceful where you lay now.
Fly high in your never-land Habibi.
"As we sat and talked after dinner a 1 year old girl took her first step across the floor of the communal eating area, and gurgled happily when the entire room turned around and cheered in unison. Sitting in the car on the way home I wondered how much, if any, of these early experiences she would she remember. Would she be afforded the basic right to grow up in a world that was peaceful and stable? Would she know anything beyond the confines of the camp, and all the chaos that place entailed?"
Once you’re aware of the injustice going on within Europe and throughout the world, once you are informed, what do you do?
Sitting at home feeling powerless? It doesn’t need to be that way, YOU ARE SO POWERFUL!
This year has seen an incredible and unprecedented global response from YOU, yes Joe Blogs I’m looking at you!
And it doesn’t end there… not only has the volunteer response saved lives in Lesvos, it continues to save lives and impact change throughout Europe in almost every European city, and throughout fantastic projects in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
Individuals such as Ana Jorge and Zora O'Neil have created an online platform that 100,000+ people are plugged into, harnessing social media and using it to coordinate a huge humanitarian effort.
So how can you help refugees?
1) Share, like and WRITE! Social media is an amazing tool for debate, advocacy and sharing information. That image that made you sit-up and take notice – could you share it? Does your Facebook circle know what’s happening in Greece today? Could you find a creative way of getting a particular poignant story out? - Don’t think you’ll make a difference? – Our incredible friend Jaz and founder of The Worldwide Tribe raised over 200,000GBP from ONE Facebook post. Money that has changed and saved the lives of countless refugees and continues to do so. That could be you.
2) Volunteer your time from home! – A number of grassroots organisations such as ourselves have begun in response to a need. We are reactive and adaptable on the ground meaning we can impact change quickly, but unfortunately there’s no way of getting away from the ‘behind the scenes’ work. Multiple volunteer organisations are in need of marketing, fundraising, admin and tech support. Do you want to help, but can’t get away? Why not offer a couple of hours of your time to help a team to develop behind the scenes. You will be enabling them to be even more efficient on the ground and further the impact.
3) Volunteer your time abroad! – Do you have two weeks+ and are looking for something more substantial than the bottom of a rum bottle and deserted beach? Do you have a particular set of skills that you know would help those in need (particularly legal, medical and translation skills)? There are volunteering opportunities throughout Europe and the Middle East, the longer you can commit the better.
4) Donate! – Our small organisation is one of many that is reliant on public funding. Grassroots organisations are passionate about creating a real difference, but also about doing it the right way. There are no large salaries, no huge PR and marketing budgets, your donations buy what’s needed. If you are looking to fund something specific, ask around, we’re all happy to help you fund a cause close to your heart! The incredible impact that’s been made on the ground by our brothers and sisters at Help Refugees, Calais Action, The WorldWide Tribe, Better Days for Moria and ourselves at RefuAid has been done so thanks to incredibly generous individual donations.
5) Organise an event! - Why not organise a fundraiser? Live music, story-telling, bring-a-pot, clothes and cake sales, black-tie events. There are so many creative and incredible ways to raise money and awareness. If you want to organise a fundraiser but need any advice or support, please feel free to get in touch!
6) Buddy! – The شبكة أصدقاء اللاجئين Refugee Buddy Network is always looking for people to join and assist in supporting newly settled refugees in your area, get involved and make some new friends.
7) Lobby - write to your MP, find a local group working on increasing the agreed resettlement numbers in your area. Find more information out at: www.theyworkforyou.com
The individual has an INCREDIBLE capacity to do good, you don’t even have to leave your front door. In the face of so much hurt and angst throughout the world, let’s lead by setting an example we can believe in.
Most days we feel powerless against the huge decisions made by our governments, but it’s misguided. We, you, are not powerless.
Consider doing something today!!
Yesterday 3 people were forced to flee, not because of mass human rights violations taking place in Turkey, not because of the savage and unrelenting war in Syria, not due to torture but following all of this, as human beings they had been subject to starvation, neglect and abuse… in Europe... at the hands of European governments. They risked their lives for safety and found none, how can we preach morality across the globe yet neglect our brothers and sisters in need in our backyard.
3 people chose to attempt to swim from the Greek island of Chios BACK to the Middle East, desperate to flee the inhumane conditions inflicted on them in the ‘hotspots’. Desperate for food, shelter and water.
Europe has greeted the most vulnerable people in the world with starvation, poverty and hate.
The ridiculous EU-Turkey agreement is breathing it’s last breathes this week, an agreement that cost millions, that was doomed to fail from the outset and should have never been considered in the first place. It will ‘officially’ fail in the next few days as Turkey refuse to change their anti-terror laws.
What this means no one is certain, but it’s heart-breaking that those in power have wasted the last few months squabbling over paperwork and people have paid with their lives. Whilst politicians, international bodies and advisors sat at tables negotiating a non-solution people, fleeing mass atrocities and horrors you and I can simply not comprehend, where left in fields, on the side of motorways, in abandoned buildings, just left. And a state, Greece, already the neglected child of Europe forced to cope the best they could, and they are, but it is a constant struggle and there is never enough.
Cameron is in the press today laughing about the corruption in other nations, would politicians be so jovial if it was their children paying the price I wonder?
In the meantime, the Greek nation, already suffering so much continues to give. Citizens, individuals continue to try their best but their best is limited by further austerity measures and capital control which only breeds resentment and poverty amongst a beautiful nation.
As the allocated camps reach capacity this week there has never been a greater need to support our brothers and sisters in Greece. Again, a year later, the future remains extremely unclear. What the summer brings no one yet knows but our little team will remain, doing what we can to bring equality, dignity and stability to the lives of those most in need.
How can it be all this time has gone by and still babies starve in Europe? How long will this be allowed to continue?
An update from Anna-Marie who has been volunteering at the social pharmacy for the last few weeks:
"We went to go to Katerini in order to help a Greek man called Elias. Elias has a project where medicine donated by several countries are collected, controlled and fed into a data base so that the search for a particular medicine is possible for the doctors from all the Camps and hospitals. It is also possible to get out of this data base the information about where and how many of the medicine can be collected. My assignment there would have been to check the medicines due date and completeness, categorize them and to put them into the Computersystem.
So I got to Katerini after my 2nd day of my arrival together with the two volunteers Marcel and Rehana. We categorize the medicine, feed them into the system and sort them out regarding a particular ID-Nr. and sequence. At the same time we go distributing meals in the Camp Nea Chrani three times a day. I try to help also in several other cases of medical nature. Our day is filled with all kind of duties the whole time. The refugees are happy to see as every time. Today, I bought drawing material for the smallest ones so that they can draw and paint as they do not have anything for a bit of diversion. It’s been already 4 days we were able to spend with lots of good experiences.”
My little brothers and sisters,
You should be here. You should be laughing and playing and squabbling and instead your cold little bodies are lying in the depths of the Aegean.
Your parents cry out with a grief that is un-paralleled, this horrible world has robbed them of all purpose and there is nothing left.
I’m sorry my brothers, my sisters you should be here. It’s beautiful, the sun is shining, the birds dancing through the clouds, yet you are not. The world, humanity has failed you. The big men and women who promised ‘Never Again’, who told your mummies and daddies that Europe was a place of salvation and justice, they were wrong.
They are so wrong, they took back that promise and they forgot that we need all your beautiful ideas. We need the music only you would make and to hear you sing the songs only you know.
We need you to come here and write stories, to teach other children when you are bigger and become astronauts and scientists and mothers and lawyers and anything you want to be.
I’m so sorry you were cold and no one came to help, there are so many that wanted to. There are so many people who love you, people whom you never met, but they love you so much. We love you and we won’t stop fighting, we will stay on the shores everyday waiting to help, there is always space for you all, here in our hearts, on our streets, in our schools.
I promise we will try, the ones of us who know, who understand you just want a place to play, to grow, to learn. We won’t stop trying. Sorry will never be enough but it’s all we have left. My brothers, my sisters we are so sorry.
So many people are thinking of you today, people who never saw your soft and cheeky smiles are thinking of you, hoping you are at peace. Our hearts are broken. All you ever knew was war I hope it’s peaceful where you lay now.
Fly high in your never-land Habibi.
Last night we waved goodbye to two brothers who have been helping us as translators. It is impossible to do our job without their help, for the last two days they have been amazing finding sick people and explaining to our doctors the symptoms. They are 21 and 17 and their story is heartbreaking. The older brother chose to flee with his younger brother after 20 of his school friends were beheaded on a bus by the taliban. They left behind their 7 year old brother, younger sister and illiterate parents. Shahin knows that leaving home means he will most likely never hear his mothers voice again, his parents don't have any form of communication and are illiterate. When he told me this his eyes filled with tears, "I had to leave, but I will never forget my family". On their last day I spent the morning making sure they had some warm socks and a coat for the horrible journey ahead. On the way back we stopped and had ice cream. Their first ice cream, it was magic.
Seeing the world through the eyes of these two boys was amazing, they are both so loving, so eager to learn and work in this new world that they find themselves in. I tried to explain in the best way the journey that lies ahead, what to expect in Idomeni, the harsh cold of Serbian winters, they just smiled. "There is no Daesh, no Taliban, we are free and happy" even in the face of so much uncertainty THEY were reassuring me!
Goodbye was horrible. It isn't right that their onward journey is life-threatening. The reality of it all became too much at the port, all of us choking back tears to be strong for the both of them whilst they sobbed, two brothers alone in the world, Europe is failing humanity.
Grown men sobbing is never easy, but to see that amount of pain in one man, the pain pleading from his eyes, it’s impossible to communicate how useless you feel in that moment. He composed himself and explained that Matteo doesn’t speak anymore. He hadn’t spoken a word since the family had fled from Syria. The father gazed at his beautiful son his broken heart beating with such hope, such longing for him to be better.