Habibi.works: a treasure for refugees in northern greece

Habibi.works: a treasure for cursed people in northern greece

The cake team at habibi.Kitchen. Image: p. Oehler

On the refugee situation in greece and germany

At first it was the name i stumbled upon: habibi.Works, a project for refugees near ioannina. Later i learned that the word "habibi" comes from the arabic and means treasure or darling. And only then i realized that there are also plenty of refugees in the northwest of greece. In the region of epirus there are about 3.000 refugees. And so i decided to spend some time in this region during my trip to greece this year. The katsikas refugee camp is located on the outskirts of katsikas, a town six kilometers from ioannina, in an arrangement of mostly gray, old hangars. This former military camp still has the status of a military area. This refugee camp with about 900 refugees is managed by the asb on behalf of the greek state, with the support of the unhcr.

In the immediate vicinity of the katsikas refugee camp, namely on the opposite side of the highway, habibi is located in a former warehouse.Works, a refugee project of the german association "soup socks". It sees itself, according to its own statements, as an intercultural "makerspace". It provides refugees (but also local greeks) with a platform for education, empowerment and meetings, as they otherwise have little access to education, psychological care, the labor market, quality living conditions or greek society.

Habibi.works: a treasure for fugitives in northern greece

The main building (former warehouse) of habibi.Works. Image: p. Oehler

By means of various workshops they should be given perspectives. For example, there is a woodworking workshop, a metalworking workshop, a tailoring workshop, a bicycle workshop, a media lab with an it area, a 3d printer and a laser cutter, and an outdoor fenced-in area for gymnastics. Here, fugitives are encountered at eye level. Because we do not want to see them as helpless victims, but we want to recognize and challenge their talents and expertise. Education and activity – doing something yourself – are thus in the foreground. In addition, there is a common lunch for the 60 to 100 guests who come five days a week. There will be in the habibi.Kitchen cooked together by some volunteers and refugees.

Habibi.Works sees itself as a living example of values such as respect, solidarity and equality, which one would like to see lived in the whole society. Habibi.Works is mainly run by young people on a voluntary basis, on the one hand long-term volunteers who have been working here full time for years, on the other hand short-term volunteers for three weeks and more. It is important to all involved that habibi.Habibi works is independent of any government funding and is therefore financed solely by donations.

Sixty kilometers south of ioannina there is another refugee camp: filippiada near arta, with about 300 refugees. Since there are no corresponding offers there, interested refugees are bussed to habibi twice a week.Works driven.

Habibi.works: a treasure for fugitives in northern greece

Refugees having lunch at habibi.Works. Picture: p. Oehler

In habibi.Works i offered a repair (cafe) workshop for two weeks. So the joint repair of broken electrical and electronic devices. The response from the refugees was very good. Nevertheless, i was surprised that the broken devices were almost exclusively smartphones and their accessories. But this is obvious, since refugees in mass accommodation do not have their own household goods. Some things we could repair, but many things we couldn’t, because it was difficult to get spare parts (displays and µ-usb sockets especially). Although i was a stranger to the refugees at the beginning, many of them sought to talk to me (mostly in broken english). And i realized only little by little that this personal exchange is even more important than a repaired cell phone.

Talking to the numerous refugees i was able to see "live" understand what is going on in greece with regard to the flood of refugees. The fact that this summer the arrival of refugees on the east-atlantic islands has increased the number of refugees who have to be brought to the greek mainland. Unlike the refugee boats intercepted in the mediterranean sea between libya and italy, which have been denied entry into italian or maltese ports, leading to a debate about how to distribute the refugees in question throughout europe, greece is being left with "its" refugees left alone by the eu.

Habibi.works: a treasure for fugitives in northern greece

A refugee waters in the vegetable garden of habibi.Works. Picture: p. Oehler

Perspectives of staying in greece are very low

I have spoken almost exclusively with afghans. And almost all of them had been accommodated for some time in the hotspot moria on lesbos. Many had been brought here from lesbos for only ten days or a month. I was told of relatives killed by the taliban. This led to the fact that a whole afghan family fled to iran. But iran is bad for afghans. Because they were not allowed to buy a house or a car. This was confirmed to me by another afghan: they were not even allowed to buy a sim card there. They needed an iranian as a middleman. And so it is not surprising that many of the afghans, who initially only fled to iran, move on to greece, europe and turkey.

I have often heard from refugees that greece is a beautiful country. But only for the tourists, to make here vacation, with the many sun and the long summers. But since there is hardly any work – even for the greeks – it is absolutely unattractive for them to live here, to stay here. That is why almost no refugee learns greek here. English courses, on the other hand, are in demand, but there are not that many courses offered here. Besides germany, france or other countries in the north are also desired.

Since i have been working for years in frankfurt am main in the field of refugee aid, i have also been able to see the very different perspectives that refugees have in greece or in germany, which has a significant influence on their integration. In both countries the refugees are always accommodated as peripherally as possible. "Deposited", the refugees are often dumped in the dirty corners of a city, in dilapidated industrial areas or on neglected. This not only makes it difficult for the refugees to participate in the social and cultural life of a city or region, but also their integration. Because they are rarely visible in the cityscape, in the center of a city: contacts unwanted!

The desire to integrate, however, is largely shaped by the prospect of remaining in the country. And in greece, the number of refugees is extremely low. With regard to the idea of making refugees more mobile by means of bicycles, there are gross differences between the two countries. In germany, it is still (and has been since the "welcome culture" in the fall of 2015) is common for various refugee projects to repair and make roadworthy bicycles donated by the population to then give them away to refugees. With habibi.Works, while refugees can come with their broken bicycles to help them get repaired. But otherwise, bicycles are only lent to them.

While there is an effort in germany to help young refugees in particular by providing them with an entry-level qualification or. To get an internship in an apprenticeship, ngos in greece tend to discuss how to help refugees become self-reliant. Ngos could act as employers to employ and pay refugees as subcontractors with their small businesses like a bakery. A thoroughly critical idea, since refugee ngos "non-profit" work: it doesn’t quite add up. Also the question arises whether one helps in such a way with much expenditure few refugees on the legs, or whether it is not better to support as usual many refugees a little bit.

Since the refugee crisis in 2015, i have spoken with approximately 200 refugees, both in germany and in greece. I ask myself how many germans have talked to at least one refugee? Whether there is any research on this? My amption is that the majority of the population has not had any "silent" have had no contact with refugees, and they are not looking for them in silence. But this is also an important part of integration, because it is not a one-sided matter.

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