UPDATE JuLy 2018
Support for refugees at the camp in Serres
In July, the Mobile Info Team focused its efforts on providing information and assistance at the refugee camp of Serres. There are over 500 inhabitants in this camp and they are almost all Yazidi, a religious minority from Northern Iraq. Yazidis have been the victims of persecution for a long time, but since 2014 they have suffered genocide by ISIS. Many Yazidis have been brutally killed, and the girls and women are at risk of being caught and enslaved. Due to recent funding cuts which have affected a lot of refugee camps in Northern Greece, the camp of Serres is now without any in-camp lawyers. The free legal aid services stationed in Thessaloniki are also hard to access, as the camp is two hours by train from the city. The travel costs are also often too expensive for an asylum seeker to cover.
In July, the Mobile Info Team made three visits to fill the obvious gap which now exists at the camp in Serres. Per session we saw between 20 – 35 cases and answered questions in their mother tongue with the help of our translators. For example, we provided information regarding the asylum interview and travel documents, helped with problems about accessing the asylum procedure and provided assistance for family reunification cases. We will continue to visit the inhabitants of the Serres camp as long as this gap exists to ensure they get the help and assistance they need.
Asylum workshop for long-term volunteers
For over one year, the Mobile Info Team has been holding regular workshops on the basics of the Greek asylum procedures for volunteers and coordinators of other grassroots and civil society organisations in Northern Greece. At the end of July, Michael, the co-founder and coordinator of the Mobile Info Team, held the monthly asylum workshop for volunteers together with Jan, a member of Advocates Abroad Thessaloniki. This took place at the Blue Refugee Center of Solidarity Now. Around 40 long-term volunteers attended.
These workshops are important as many volunteers are out every day in the field, where they can identify applicants that are still in need of legal assistance and refer them to the appropriate legal support structures. There, volunteers are also confronted with many questions and requests, where unclear or incorrect answers could cause serious harm. Being aware of the limits of their knowledge is almost as important as knowing the basics of the asylum procedure. The legal frameworks are very complicated and the reality on the ground is changing constantly. During the two hour workshop, Michael and Jan were able to clarify a lot of questions, clear up misunderstandings and shed light on which cases require professional advice to be sought.
Finding help for suicidal asylum seekers
Since the situation for asylum seekers in Greece is again rapidly deteriorating, also the mental health situation of more and more people of concern is reaching a critical stage. This, alongside the Mobile Info Team’s increasing following on Facebook and outreach through the team hotline, has led to more and more suicidal asylum seekers contacting us. Together with psychological professionals working with refugees, the Mobile Info Team set a policy in place on how to deal with suicide threats communicated via Facebook or the hotline. So far, we have always been able to connect the concerned asylum seekers with support services, where at least their most fundamental problems could be dealt with.
At this point it should be noted that the situation of asylum seekers in Greece who are undergoing a serious mental health crisis is simply terrible. NGOs providing mental health services for refugees are completely overwhelmed and can, even in emergency situations, only provide appointments after 2-4 weeks. Because of this, emergency cases can only be dealt with by the public health system but, due to Greek budget cuts forced by the European Union, psychiatric hospitals are in an awful state, with very limited resources to serve the needs of their patients in an appropriate way. Given what many asylum seekers have been through, it would be crucial that they have access to psychological support when in crisis.
Providing information about finding lost family members
In the chaos of escaping war and persecution, family members often lose contact with each other and are not able to restore the contact again. To support migrants and refugees in such situations, MIT coordinator Michael had a meeting with the responsible employee of the Red Cross in Thessaloniki to understand how the Red Cross is able to help restore family links. Following this meeting, at the end of July, the Mobile Info Team posted on its Facebook page how migrants and refugees with lost family members can get in contact with the Red Cross in Greece and find support to restore their family links. This post was made in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and English and reached altogether more than 2,200 people. Hopefully this will lead to a lot of family members that can restore contact with their loved ones again.