My name is Gailan and I am an Iraqi Kurd refugee from the city of Erbil and have been living in Greece for almost four years. I currently work for OCC Polykastro.
Together with the Open Cultural Center (OCC) we translated the book „My friend!“ into German. In it children explain and illustrate their journey to and the life in Greece. For you we talked to Gailan about the current situation for people on the run in Greece and the work of OCC in Polykastro. The earnings from the book offer dircetly go into the work of the OCC. Orders can be made in the online shop or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
How would you describe the situation in your region for refugees?
I live in a refugee camp along with many refugees a in small area of Greece called Polykastro. The camp is five kilometres from the nearest village, but the organisation makes it easily accessible. The organisation is very useful for the refugees and they spend a lot of time there learning a lot.
How is the housing situation in your region?
Most of the people living in houses are families, however, the situation is different for single people who must live in the camp if they are healthy. It is necessary to have the required medical papers if you have any physical or mental health problems so that they can put you in a house.
How do you use donated money?
This depends on what the money is being donated for. Sometimes money is donated online which is then used by the coordinators of OCC to use it to fund projects, for example, language classes and exams, the bike project, materials and different activities. However, the volunteers can’t use this money.
How is the general cooperation with authorities?
There is military and police in the camp but in general. The organisations have a good relationship with the government, but the refugees sadly don’t.
What are the biggest challenges of integration?
The biggest challenges of integration are that the people can’t find work here because there are not a lot of jobs which are mainly given to local people and not the refugees. It is also difficult to study at a school or university because only the minors have access to schools and the adults have to learn at the organisation.
Are there positive examples/experiences?
There are a lot of positives to OCC. The organisation is very important in this area and a lot of people have the opportunity to learn. I am an example of this as due to attending English classes, I am able to carry out this interview in English. Unfortunately, aside from the organisation, I do not believe there are many positives about Greece for refugees, mainly because it’s so difficult to find a job here. Once refugees receive their documents, they will leave the country to find better opportunities elsewhere.
What are the biggest challenges due to the Corona pandemic?
The biggest challenge of being in lockdown is healthcare, however, we are always giving information via Whatsapp to the community and are in contact with them. With regards to the camp, people are allowed out but only for a genuine reason, however, inside the camp, everyone is together. They bring people in from Samos or elsewhere to check the people to see if they are healthy or not.
Which activities did you need to stop, which can continue?
When the virus began, everything changed very quickly. The lockdown was in place everywhere and the organisation closed which meant the activities we carried out with the local community, such as language classes, women’s space and sport activities, stopped and now we spend time at home and in the camp.
Do you have access to the health care system?
We have healthcare in the camp and if you have the medical papers, you can go to the hospital. However, it is a problem when you make either a hospital or doctor’s appointment and you have to wait a long time until you can see them. Also, this depends on who is responsible for you in the house or camp and whether they do a good job or not.