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The so-called refugee crisis in Europe seems to disappear step by step from the news. On the one hand that’s good as I can’t hear this expression any more – it’s not an European refugee crisis, it’s a humanitarian catastrophe many refugees are experiencing. It might be as well a sign that the chaos and the prevailing precarious circumstances concerning accommodation, medical care and providing we have witnessed in 2016 are largely over at the moment.

At least we don’t see many of those terribly shocking images we have seen in Idomeni, Lesbos and elsewhere last year. There are many reasons for this: The often-criticised deal with Turkey and the border controls in many European countries – especially along the Balkan route – have resulted in the fact that it is quite simply impossible for most refugees to move on. It is also probable that the absolute numbers of refugees starting for example in Syria have decreased. And lastly a better organisation of governmental and non-governmental institutions led to a certain improvement of the general situation.

However – and that’s the other hand – hey, the people are still here! And they will stay here! That’s a fact many European citizens start to forget due to this already mentioned decline in media presence. This brings me to a very important question: What to do now? For sure I cannot provide a comprehensive answer to that question, but I can tell a short story about one possible way of doing something. It’s the project Habibi.Works in Katsikas/Greece, run by the German NGO Soup&Socks.

I’m not talking here about the great help this organization has given in the past when help was needed literally on every corner – for example with providing good – and culturally adequate – food for refugees and other people in need in Athens or later in the refugee camp in Katsikas. I would like to draw the attention to the here and now and the current work which is done there – not for the refugees, but with the refugees and all other (local) people who want to participate there.

Honestly, I have only been there twice and just for a couple of hours so far. Therefore, neither can I give a deep insight into the whole project nor can I talk about the sustainability this all hopefully holds – even though I’m pretty sure that the approach in general is more sustainable that “just helping and leaving” (which sometimes is necessary as well without any question). But from what I have seen, heard and experienced there I have to admit it’s a really good thing. Period.

It’s not only the possibility of having a (very nice) contact point there – something that feels a little bit like a cultural centre – and meeting each other there. This might be quite important as well because the Katsikas camp itself, which is located just across the road, was closed by the end of December 2016, and those refugees who are still staying in the Ioannina area now are distributed over the surrounding region. This place is much more thought…

I think – apart from being victim of war, violence or poverty that made people flee and emigrate from their country of course – hardly anything is more demoralizing for people than having nothing to do. This day-to-day monotony of just eating, sleeping, eating… combined with the hindrance of living out ones own creativity, working, doing something meaningful or being able to build ones own life is really discouraging and – from a certain point on – even humiliating.

Therefore, a place like Habibi.Works is something like a stroke of luck. Equipped with a large kitchen, a wood workshop, a metal workshop and a sewing workshop, a computer workplace, a garden and several other spaces for creative work this project provides precisely what is needed. It’s not just that the people – refugees, locals and volunteers together – are able to improve with these workshops the installations in the house itself – as in the camp before – and expand thereby the further possibilities there. Beyond that, I’m deeply convinced that the psychological aspect is essential as well. As for most human beings it is really important for refugees – who are owing to circumstances dependent on outside help for the moment – to show and to bring in their creativity, personality, ideas, competences and experiences. And it is a benefit for all…

I think it hasn’t gone unnoticed that I am really impressed by that place, by the work which is done there and by the wonderful spirit and atmosphere I have felt. We would go well to transfer this kind of humanity and respect for others to many more places all over Europe!

I hope the folk there will keep on with this project and they will receive the necessary support for their work in the future as well!

Some more impressions to find here.


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