An immigrants’ haven in Athens

Athens, Greece – The immigrant house in Athens has been a meeting place for young refugees of up to 20 nationalities for many years. The house does not only help immigrants but also offers a workplace for young Athenians who choose to devote their time to helping refugees become integrated. Euroviews visited the house and talked to the people there.

Walking across the Tsamadou Street in Athens, the diverse aspects of the street in the area of Exarcheia are unmissable. Every wall features another piece of street art and graffiti that can only express how a country torn between crisis, politics, and immigration is dealing with its separate issues

Down the street on number 13 lies a safe house that has created a community centre and space of happiness for many immigrants that live or have passed through Greece on their immigration journey. Louisa (19) is an architecture student and volunteer in the immigrant house, she spoke to Euroviews about her experience and how she found out about the place.

“My friend and I volunteered here because it is organised but not controlled by any political party and open for everyone. I was looking for somewhere with no specified political idea and I was interested in the issues of immigrants, there weren’t yet any political movements for this and I found it all here.”

The house that was founded years ago aims to help immigrants feel at home in Greece. It is vibrant with different nationalities, religions, and cultures. People there share everything from cake and beer to discussions and debates. The volunteers who teach Greek at the house also share in the feasts and activities with the immigrants.

Asma Mahamed (26) from Morocco spoke about her experience in the immigrant house and what they did here on a daily basis.

“We study Greek here, they take care of all the immigrant issues, if they have any problem with paperwork or need a lawyer they help you and find a lawyer for you and go with you. They support foreigners, whatever problems you have you can talk to them, they are not working under any political influence and they work strictly to help foreigners.”

Asma explained that she had been living in Greece for 9 years but had worked all the time with Arab people so never had the chance to learn Greek. She also explained that “Thanks to this place now I learn Greek and every Friday we discuss all the issues going on in the country.”

The immigrant house, in addition to offering free language lessons in Greek and four additional languages (Spanish, French, German, and English) helps immigrants in all legal and paperwork issues in Greece. According to Asma, there has been a case where and immigrant needed a lawyer and couldn’t afford one so the house, in coordination with some supporting NGOs, hired a lawyer and got him legally on the right track.

2015-03-30 21.12.17
The immigrant house in Athens offers more than just a meeting place for immigrants.

 

People go to the immigrant house to learn more about the Greek life and culture, “if you are an immigrant, it doesn’t mean you should sit at home and not communicate with the locals” says Asma.  It is a place where they learn to express themselves and helps them open up.

The Greek community is also involved in this house. The people who have clothes and other stuff they don’t need can drop them off at the house. When an immigrant arrives in Athens and says he doesn’t own anything, they help them for free. All the lessons offered and the activities organised are for free, “they even offer us free tea and coffee” says Asma.

 

Currently in Greece to write about hopes and challenges of the Greek youth.