“War destroyed our country and ruined our lives. Putting my children on a boat – a ‘death boat’ – was a very hard decision to make. But we had to leave, to flee bombings and to provide our children with a better future.”
No one wants to live in fear. No one wants to feel persecuted and to struggle for some human dignity. But there are people for whom the right to a future free of fear is not a given. People like Malek and his family, who had to flee seeking hope and a place they can call home.
People like us….
For all those people seeking safety, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has been mandated, for 70 years now, to provide protection, giving the opportunity to millions of refugees around the world to start a new life.
In 2015, UNHCR, in cooperation with the Greek Government, initiated the implementation of the ESTIA accommodation programme in Greece. The programme has provided support to more than 70,000 people, with the assistance of Municipalities as well as national and international NGOs, co-financed by the European Union. In 2021, the Ministry of Migration and Asylum is fully assuming the management of the ESTIA programme. Today, more than 20,000 asylum seekers are our new neighbours in rented apartments in 21 cities in Greece. By living in cities people can gradually access services, education, and also the labour market to become active members of their society again.
This has been the wish of Safar, who used to run a small tailor shop in Iraq for 25 years, before being forced to leave everything behind. Along with his family they found refuge in the city of Trikala, where the municipal development company e-Trikala coordinates the ESTIA accommodation programme. There, he voluntarily started making protective masksagainst COVID-19 for the local community, as well as one-piece uniforms for e-Trikala staff.
“I remember my father saying: Helping people makes our heart feel full. This is how I feel too. People in Trikala respect and love us. They look after us and care for us. So, we feel the need to thank them for everything they have done for us. I want to help those people through my work.”
Living in cities, people build true bonds.
“I love going to the playground with tete (grandmother in Arabic), to play on the swing and on the seesaw.” I met many children from our neighbourhood there, and we are now friends!”, says 8-year-old Alisar, who lives with her parents and sisters in Heraklion on Crete island.
The children’s new grandmother and neighbour, 85-year-old Ms. Kitsa, explains what solidarity means in practice.
“I feel for them and whatever they have been through and I am trying to help them. No one knows what life has in store. These people didn’t expect to be uprooted one day. It could be us tomorrow who need to leave our country. It is our duty to stand by anyone who is in need.”
Because being human is our true destination.