UPDATE OCTOBER 2018
Dispelling dangerous rumors
One very good example of why up-to-date and correct information is so crucial occurred last month: Towards the end of October a group of around 90 migrants walked in Bosnia towards the Croatian border, but were stopped from crossing into EU territory by a cordon of policeman. For asylum seekers finding themselves in a desperate situation in the refugee camps of Greece, hope is an unstoppable source of motivation. So it is no surprise that this incident in Bosnia was quickly spun into a viral false rumor that the borders were open again and that there would be a safe passage to northern Europe. Through social media, this rumor spread like wildfire and within hours the “news” had reached countless people.
As a result, many people considered leaving Greece behind in the hope of an open route to better conditions in northern Europe. This would not only result in irrevocably losing places in accommodations and camps, and getting into deep trouble concerning their asylum claims, but also in a dangerous journey with the possibility of being violently pushed back by border police, robbed by smugglers or worse. To prevent this, immediately after hearing about the rumor, the Mobile Info Team wrote a post on our Facebook page telling the real story behind the rumor, explaining the current political situation and ensuring people of concern that the border was not open. The post was translated to Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Pashto and in a short time reached thousands of people. We are not sure how many people we were able to prevent from leaving, but every person we could prevent following rumors based on false hope is a victory for us.
Trainings to refine our skills and knowledge
As part of our ongoing effort to always keep up-to-date and to learn as much as possible about the environment we are based in, MIT team members are consistently attending different trainings and workshops to stay prepared for the challenges faced every day. At the end of October, the whole team attended a training for identifying potential victims of human trafficking, held by the NGO A21. At the moment, one of our main focuses is to support homeless asylum seekers who, because of their vulnerability, are very susceptible to becoming victims of human trafficking. We hope that this training will enable us to notice potential indicators and report to the proper authorities and, in the best case scenario, save people from the ongoing suffering of human trafficking.
In recent weeks we have also attended other workshops and trainings such as a UNHCR-led session focused on safety and security when dealing with asylum seekers and migrants, and a workshop about child protection by the Greek NGO ARSIS. Refugee Trauma Initiative also offers various self-care workshops for volunteers to ensure that our team members are able to deal with the stress and hardship faced in the field, which is unfortunately part of our everyday struggle to support asylum seekers in Greece.
Helping where we can – the more unusual requests
After more than two years in the field working with a number of different organisations, volunteers, and migrants, we have built up a wide network. As a result, people occasionally come to us with some of the more unusual requests but if we have the time and the capacity, we try to offer our support. For example, we helped to find translation for a Syrian mother who traveled with her severely sick child to Germany to receive the urgently needed medical care; medical care that the child couldn’t receive in Cyprus, her place of residence. As it was a time sensitive matter, we needed to track down a German-Arabic translator free of charge in a short amount of time. Thanks to our extensive network, we quickly found a translator and the mother was then able to communicate with the hospital’s doctors and to give and receive information at each step of her child’s medical procedure.
Additionally, we helped a Syrian asylum seeker to find free glasses for his eye problem, because he wasn’t able to pay for it on his own.
Another example being when, some weeks ago, our coordinator Michael retrieved a package filled with important documents, which had been lost in shipping for nearly 2 years. These documents were urgently needed by an Iraqi family to complete their legal proceedings in Turkey. After quite a number of obstacles, the family could eventually pick up their package and finally move forward! There are many more examples, but we hope that these select few give some insight into the varied shapes our work may take on.