The Registration and Reception Centre in the village ‘Fylakio Evrou’, the only one of its kind in Northern Greece, is located 23km northwest of Orestiada. The 250 refugees housed there, are constantly monitored by the police and must live in containers which are split into four sections. Almost half of them are unaccompanied minors.
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Adult refugees stay here only for a few days until their registration is completed and their application is processed. Those who are thought of as having the right to remain in the country will leave within a few days and continue their journey toward the mainland. The rest will be taken to the Deportation Detention Centre which is right next door and houses an irregular number of people, ranging from 300 to 600, people who must remain indoors at all times and are not allowed to go out in the yard.
The most worrying problem faced by refugees is that of the pushbacks to Turkey, says the coordinator of the Mobile Unit of Child Protection Services in Thrace (ARSIS), Vasilis Papageorgas. A characteristic example is that of a 15 year-old refugee, who had been taken back to Turkey 6 times!
Anastasia Papathanassaki, an educator who works for ARSIS and teaches the refugee children the Greek language, spends New Year’s Eve at the school of the section D of the containers.
Twelve young refugee boys, aged 12 to 17 years old, are sat in a circle and speak about their living conditions and their dreams for the future. Almost all of them would like to get to Germany at some point. They avoid talking about their journey to Greece. They say that if they do that, they will have to write a book.
They live together and help each other out. They learned in practice that solidarity is a way of dealing with difficulties. Protests with the demand to leave the Registration Centre are common here.
A., a 16 year-old boy, dreams of studying computer programming. He says that if he could, he would take his classmates and go to ‘a place with no fences, because it feels like a prison in here’.
The aim of the 15 year-old A., is to become an architect. He dreams of building houses designed by himself. He will create different types of houses but they will all have a big yard and a garden where the residents will be able to grow their own vegetables and flowers.
T, who is 16 does not want to go to university. He was a brought up in a violent home and just wants to be able to become a good person and learn how to box in order to blow off steam.
F., who is also 16, wants to leave the Detention Centre, go to a normal school and become a doctor in the future in order to help people in need, while N., who is of the same age, wants to become a lawyer since he has a good memory and he will be able to memorize all the laws.
What do they wish for the new year? Freedom to continue their journey toward Northern Europe. They want to have opportunities so that they will be able to have hope in their lives. ‘The refugees who come here are very excited at first because they think that their difficulties are now over.’ underscores Vasilis Papageorgas. ‘They are full of false hopes because in reality the processes are lenghty and they are unaware that they are going to stay in Greece for a long time until they get on with their journey. False hopes lead to disappointment and this makes things even harder for them’.
The program of the Mobile Team of Child Protection Services ARSIS has been operating in Thrace since July 2018 in the context of the project «Providing urgent protection for the most vulnerable UASC through Safe Zones, Food Provision and Case management » and has been funded by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations. The program supports underage unaccompanied refugees who have been there for two or more months under a protective status. The staff is comprised by four co-ordinators of services, two lawyers, two educators, four interpreters and a driver.
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