A co-operative project in Greece aims to provide housing and support for refugees, and help them successfully integrate into society.
The ‘Welcommon’ initiative stands for ‘welcome in common’ and is the brainchild of four organisations – the social co-operative Wind of Renewal, the Greek Forum of Refugees, the Greek Forum of Migrants, and ANASA Cultural Centre. They aim to set up a hostel providing housing for 120-150 people for six-month periods or longer.
The hostel will not only offer safe accommodation for asylum-seekers, but also help with refugee integration into society, empowerment and social inclusion. Refugees – most of which are escaping the war in Syria – will be provided with food, clothes, health care, and also training opportunities such as language classes.
Nikos Chrysogelos, president of Wind of Renewal and one of the founders of the project, said: “The personnel of the hostel will be both migrants/refugees and Greek nationals. That means that through hosting we try to create job opportunities.”
Greece has a strong record of helping asylum-seekers. In December, the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras committed to housing 50,000 refugees by the end of 2016. According to the UN Refugee Agency, this year alone Greece has received 61,000 people by sea.
The four organisations are working co-operatively and hope to get the hostel up and running by June. But they need funding, whether it be through foundations in Greece, private donors, or crowdfunding.
Mr Chrysogelos said: “We have already developed good co-operation with the Municipality of Athens and we hope to do the same with the regional authorities in Attica.
“We are looking for a [closed] hotel or clinic which would be suitable for hosting activities related to social entrepreneurship.”
Mr Chrysogelos also said they may also look at getting support from the EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, although that was a more lengthy process.
Welcommon hopes to provide a more organised approach to helping refugees, and pioneer all-round aid, rather than simply putting a roof over heads.
“We are starting by providing housing in apartments,” Mr Chrysogelos said, “but there is no experience of integrating and developing the entrepreneurship of refugees and migrants in Greece, especially in a co-operative way.”
- To find out more about the project, and for information on how to support it, email [email protected]