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Facing the Refugee Crisis: Lessons from Greece

Updated: Jun 11, 2022

The United States has recently been called to face an influx of refugees on our southern border, propelling us into an emergency situation where the degraded condition of refugee accommodation and processing after the initial waves were met unprepared and underfunded, was met with widespread local and even international criticism. However, our challenges in the States pales in comparison to those faced by Europe, and in particular, the countries of the Mediterranean in the wake of the Syrian civil war. We are holding the Globe in Greece semester in March 2020, with participating members of Virginia Commonwealth University, first and foremost to participate in the ongoing effort to serve the refugee community reaching the shores of Europe, but additionally to learn from the many outstanding organizations who have aided the receipt, care, and mobilization of stricken populations in Athens, the capital city. Organizations such as Pampiraiki Warehouse have been there from the beginning, with many of the volunteers witnessing tearfully the early waves of boats arriving at Piraeus and contributing to the outpouring of generosity exhibited by local Greeks and visitors who, despite the local economic crisis, often shared their resources with open arms. The Greek Forum of Refugees sprang up in response to needs that we might not even consider at first glance, like public awareness and image of refugees, as well as other functional systemic matters like influencing pro-refugee legislation and aiding individuals with legal matters. Other sites, like the Orange House have sprung up as creative project to meet a variety of needs, culminating in a creative drawing together of the local and immigrant communities, exchange of knowledge, and commitment to safe and positive spaces for growth. We are blessed to have the opportunity this semester to visit, speak with or volunteer for each of these organizations, in addition to a few others, in the capital where the lineage of many of our western democratic and philosophical traditions sprang forth, Athens.

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