Al Jazeera | 27.01.2017
With more than 62,000 refugees unable to move on, civil society and solidarity groups fill gap where the state fails.
Athens, Greece – A group of young men and women sit in the reception area charging their phones as a steady chorus of children’s laughter comes from the playroom in Khora, an activist-run community centre that provides respite for refugees and migrants in the Greek capital.
The cooperative community centre is in the Exarcheia neighbourhood, a centre of refugee solidarity activism in Athens.
Rami Farajpour, 21, a Kurd who fled Iran due to political problems with the government, arrived on the shores of Greece’s Lesbos island in February 2016.
Although he initially planned to continue his journey to Western Europe, he began volunteering in Lesbos to help refugees arriving on flimsy dinghies the day after arriving.
After connecting with solidarity activists from across Europe, he eventually moved with them to mainland Greece, where they set up shop cooking for refugees and migrants in Piraeus, until Khora opened its doors in October after three months of renovation.
Rami, who hopes to obtain asylum and become a tattoo artist in Greece, does translation and administrative tasks at Khora several times a week.
Six days a week, Khora provides refugees and migrants with a swath of services, including dentistry, information, legal services, language classes, lessons for children and internet, among others. In the future, they hope to also provide basic medical services for people who cannot afford it.
With poor humanitarian conditions in government-run camps, centres such as Khora provide a crucial service for refugees and migrants.
Emma, a volunteer who declined to provide her last name, said that most of the centre’s volunteers were involved in refugee solidarity activism on the Greek islands while arrivals were high in 2015 and 2016.
She said Khora, along with activist-run squats that provide housing for refugees and migrants in Athens, fill a gap where the Greek state falls short.
„As people who are used to living quite normal lives back home, we wanted to provide a place that allowed them to get involved with that space, to make decisions about that space and move away from the endless feeling of being only a number.“