Ich heiße Cynthia Tilden-Machleidt und bin die Dozentin dieser neuen Lehrveranstaltung an der HWR Berlin. Diese Lehrveranstaltung wird in zwei Sprachen angeboten (English-Deutsch), weil einige Teilnehmer im Erasmus-Programm als Gaststudierende in Berlin sind. Wir schreiben hier über unsere Erfahrungen mit Flüchtlingen. In meinem Bericht versuche ich die Situation in Athen zu beschreiben.
I was in Athens at our partner university AUEB from June 19-25, 2016. Just a week, but I was able to visit a number of places where refugees live and/or meet with other refugees and volunteers who care. I have uploaded a few photos and added links where you can read more about them.
The week in Athens was extremely hot, nothing unusual for this city. Many residential buildings are empty or lived in by squatters. Squatting has quite a long history in Greece and it continues.
I visited the refugee site at „City Plaza“, an abandoned hotel in a downtown area at Acharnon 78/Katrivanou Streets. See their facebook pages (thanks for this, Nikos!):
There I met Lina who kindly spent quite lot of time showing me around and telling me about the situation. I had a tour of the front reception area, the dining hall/restaurant area, children’s playroom, kitchen and storeroom. We sat in the wide-open bar area and talked while lots of kids played hide-and-seek in between the tables.
There are about 400 hundred people living in this previously vacated hotel, including 185 children. I don’t know the exact capacity of the Plaza, but Lina told me they have to turn many people away and prioritize who they think are the most in need, e.g. families with small children, single parents with children, the handicapped, etc. Refugees find out where they can go by word-of-mouth and their smart phones.
According to Lina, there are about 100 volunteers who come by and help every week. This is not a constant number and many are students and young people who come when they can, but have committments to school and work which prevents them from helping in the longer-term.
One major challenge seems to be the fact that refugee children are not in school. The present government apparently announced some time ago that schools would be opened to them in the fall, but someone told me that they more recently announced that it won’t happen for yet another year. This is a grave situation in this respect.
Midweek I met a couple of volunteers at the Social Meeting Place where they meet to talk and hang out with each other. They offer language classes most evenings (Greek, English, German, Italian and Spanish!). Every weekend they cook and eat together, play games, etc. I met Michael (see photo) who told me they started this center a full 10 years ago and their effort continues!
I saw many homeless people in Athens and in this report I have not mentioned the political aspects of squatting in Greece, or the politics involved concerning refugees. That needs to be addressed.