Valuable work of volunteers in the midst of these crises often goes undereported and unrewarded.
The Greek economic crisis is well-known and has been well-documented. The refugee crisis gripping the Middle East and Europe is also heavily reported by all forms of media. However, the valuable work of volunteers in the midst of these crises often goes undereported and unrewarded.
This in-depth article from VICE magazine provides graphic detail of the daily struggles in Greece for migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries. The Greek government says it does not have the financial capacity or the required level of support from the European Union to adequately care for refugees fleeing war-torn Syria and other unstable and dangerous parts of the world. As such, refugee camps have essentially become prisons that house people indefinitely despite their right to be accepted and cared for under international law.
Even without significant government funding, Athens are treating refugees with the compassion and respect.
What the article goes on to highlight, however, is that even without significant levels of government funding, certain groups in Athens are treating refugees with the compassion and respect they deserve. This humane treatment is taking place in and around the Greek anarchist enclave of Exarcheia. Exarcheia is a long standing squat in the heart of Athens. It is a haven for leftist and socialist political opinion, but also reaches into the realm of anarchist political and economic ideology. The squat is long standing and is almost completely off the grid (in fact, it only uses government services for sewerage; in all other respects, it is completely self-sufficient).
Volunteer groups within Exarcheia have taken in refugees with the goal of giving them a life with some semblance of normality, in contrast to the horrific conditions in refugee camps across Greece. In Exarcheia, Greek and English language classes are provided, children are schooled, Arabic newspapers are printed by squatters, and wholesome food and clean water are available.
Volunteer groups and refugees recognise food and clean water alone are not a long term solution.
The volunteer groups and the refugees themselves recognise that it is not a long term solution. Many asylum seekers hope to reach Germany and start a better life in an economy that offers more opportunity.
I strongly recommend reading the article provided by the above link. It will allow you to join me in questioning why it is not commonplace for countries to treat refugees with dignity and respect. If an anarchist enclave in Greece can adequately provide assistance to desperate refugees, surely governments across the world can be doing more to assist the growing number of displaced persons worldwide.
Volunteer Newsletter Team Leader and Lawyer
LLB, BCom (University of Newcastle), Grad Dipl. of Legal Practice (College of Law)