The EU funded community centre is designed to provide a space for refugees and locals to socialise, relax, learn and get information. The centre is called Agora, the Greek term for meeting place.
“We are linking refugees and asylum seekers with residents and underlining the similarities they have, rather than the differences,” says Gianmaria Pinto, NRC’s country director in Greece.
A modern-day meeting place
Over 14,000 migrants and refugees are stranded on Greek islands. For those on Chios, it may take months to find out whether they can apply for asylum in Greece or be returned to Turkey. That is happening against a backdrop of a local community struggling with joblessness and falling incomes.
Agora is already at work – the International Organisation for Migration conducts psychological support for humanitarian workers and refugees there. The European Asylum Support Office provides information sessions on asylum processes and applications. Future plans include teaching Greek, pottery classes and computer lessons.
By opening Agora and other such centres, we aim to bridge inequalities between Europeans and asylum seekers.
In Thessaloniki, northern Greece, we are placing refugees in apartments, and they will be able to access a drop-in center in the city to help those refugees adjust to urban life and navigate their way around a new hometown, even if it is temporary. Another centre is about to open in the town of Kalohori. All these activities are EU-funded.
The needs of the people stranded on Chios – some now for more than a year – are different to those who have just arrived – and refugees continue to arrive. More than 650 people have reached Chios just this month.
“Agora is designed to provide a space for meeting and dialogue for thousands of people who have lost their homes and livelihoods,” says Pinto.