“Welcommon” stands for “Welcome in common”. This is the name that four well-established organisations, the social cooperative Wind of Renewal, the Greek Forum of Refugees, the Greek Forum of Migrants and ANASA Cultural Centre, have chosen for a project seeking to offer much more than emergency accommodation. Social inclusion, empowerment and refugee integration are key aims of the initiative.
María Ruiz Nievas
The main objective is to provide quality housing for up to 120-150 asylum seekers for six-month periods or longer. “The personnel of the Hostel will be both migrants/refugees and Greek nationals. That means that through hosting we try to create job opportunities,” explains Nikos Chrysogelos, President of Wind of Renewal and one of the founders of the project. Refugees will also be put in contact with local initiatives looking for workers as technicians, nurses or doctors, artists and social entrepreneurs.
Refugees will receive food, clothing and health care to cover their basic needs, as well as information and various training opportunities, such as language instruction, to develop their abilities and skills.
Active participation of asylum seekers
Although Greek citizens have expressed solidarity to refugees and there are a lot of initiatives to provide food, clothes and first aid equipment, there is a lack of organized policy and good practices for social inclusion, empowerment and integration for those refugees willing to stay in Greece or who at least want to stay longer.
“We are starting by providing housing in apartments, but there is no experience of integrating and developing the entrepreneurship of refugees and migrants in Greece, especially in a cooperative way,” claims Nikos Chrysogelos.
Last December, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras committed to housing 50,000 refugees by the end of 2016 and this year Greece has already received 61,746 people who arrived by sea, according to UNHCR. “Welcommon” could not be happening at a better time.
“We would like to be operational by June,” said Chrysogelos, who recognizes that the project’s success is dependent upon funding. Foundations in Greece, private donors and a crowd funding campaign are the most immediate options. “We have already developed good cooperation with the Municipality of Athens and we hope to do the same with the regional authorities in Attica. We are looking for a (closed) hotel or clinic (there are some in Athens, because of the crisis), which would also be suitable for hosting activities related to social entrepreneurship.”
Chrysogelos does not close the door, however, on support from the EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), but admits that “it takes time and it is something for the future”.
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The four organisations:
Published by European Confederation CECOP – CICOPA Europe here