KEY FACTS

Holding Organisation: Association of Afghans United in Greece Status: Independent Association of Afghan people living in Greece People involved in the project: 120 members in the city of Athens Public partners: NO Private Partners: NO Sources and links: http://www.afghan-gr.blogspot.gr/ , http://www.afghan-fr.blogspot.gr/ Contact person: Reza Golami, president of the Association r_golami at yahoo.gr

The idea:

The idea was to create an Association that could bring together all the people of Afghanistan living in Greece, coming mainly from 4 different ethnic groups (Hazara, Pashtun, Tazik and Uzbek) and that usually have conflicts between them. This Association was created by Afghani people from the 4 ethnic groups and is independent from any organisation, political or religion party. Their main purpose is to cultivate the unity and peaceful cohabitation of its members and to contribute to their integration into Greek society. Moreover, since the majority of Afghan people is undocumented in Greece and is often victims of racist violence, the need to denounce these attacks and to protect the victims has become urgent and should be carried out by those affected.

The local context:

Greece is a country that has been facing a financial crisis for the last 3 years. As a result, the population is become poorer and further deprived of access to basic human needs, such as nutrition, health care and housing. On the other hand, having a natural border between Asia, Africa and Europe, Greece is open to the waves of migration coming from these continents. To date, there has never been an effective policy for dealing with the number of undocumented migrants who are trapped in the country due to the EU’s Dublin Regulation (2003/343/CE), who remain in the country hidden from society. In addition, during the last years there is a growing movement of neo-Nazi parties whose members are physically and verbally attacking migrants or breaking into their homes and stores, with the tolerance of the official State. Since 2012, the Nazi Political Party, “Golden Dawn”, has been an official member of the Parliament.

The starting point:

It all started in 2009, in a meeting of around 90 Afghani people who were not satisfied with the so far existing Associations of their nation in Greece. These Associations were divided by the ethnic groups (Hazara, Pashtun) and were considered to be an obstacle to cohabitation and integration of their members. In addition, the Afghani population in Greece was getting poorer due to the economic crisis and there were a serious number of victims of racist attacks by members of neo-Nazi groups; a phenomenon that was hushed up until recently in Greece.

Steps and development of the action:

2009: First meetings to develop the philosophy and the articles of the Association; 2010: First election of the Administrative Council, consisting of Hazara, Pashtun, Tajik and Uzbek representatives; December of 2010: Members of the unofficial Association form a committee and organise a protest that leads to a big hunger strike in Athens demanding political asylum. After 60 days of hunger strikes, in which 9 people sewed their mouths, and several months of protest, the Greek Government granted asylum to the majority of strikers (2011); January of 2012: formal recognition of the Association by the Greek State.

How does it work?

The Association is located in Athens, where its members rent an apartment that is used for meetings and activities (language lessons, etc.) of the Association. The Association has 120 members so far and is funded by their contributions. The first objective of the Association’s activities is to register all the Afghani people who live in Greece, both legally and illegally. Communities and anti-racist organisations all over the Greek territory are cooperating with the offices of the Association and a special online system is used for registration. The second action is to support the members of the Association in practical needs such as nutrition, medical supplies and clothing. The financial crisis in Greece and the absence of legal protection for migrants and refugees has led the majority of these people to live without access to basic human needs. For this aim, the Association is connected with corresponding Associations in Europe, as well as NGOs and communities in and outside Greece, disclosing the needs and problems of its members and asking for support. The Association edits and publishes a weekly bilingual (Dari and Greek) magazine called «H Ενότητα» (Unity), with updated news in Greece and in Afghanistan, articles about migration, cultural events, information about NGOs and organisations of social support, which the readers can address and benefit from. In the paper, there are also advertisements of Afghan business in Greece, which are its best financiers. What’s more, the Association organises cultural events and occasions to celebrate important days of Afghan civilisation or important National Days (Mother’s Day, Day of Women, etc.) in cooperation with other migrants’ communities and Associations that work in the migration field. During the school year, they organise 1) Greek and English lessons, provided by teachers who volunteer and 2) an information session and counseling on legal topics, which is taking place once a week with a volunteer lawyer. There is also a football team that is taking part in non-professional championships amongst the migrant communities, with the purpose to contribute to the fight against racism and the hope that the talented players will be identified and promoted to professional Championships.

Added value of the project and making resources available:

Social benefits: creation of a community life of Afghan people in Greece through the co-habitation of the different ethnic groups. Strengthen integration into Greek society by fighting for equal rights. Inspire more Associations to act with democratic and open collective procedures. Shaping policies: participation of the Association in the “Council for Immigrants’ Integration” in the Municipality of Athens, an advisory Council that strengthens migrants’ integration, and which exists in every Municipality in Greece. Economical benefits: creation of a network for the members in order to have access to legal and social services, food, housing, care, employment and culture without paying exploiters for these services. Ecological benefits: save time and energy for access to resources by providing information to the members of the Association. Avoid waste of food, clothes and medical supplies by distributing to the people in need and sharing the surplus with other corresponding Associations and NGOs.

Challenges/risks/inertias:

The Association is the first and only one so far in Greece that is trying to include equally all Afghan people and give voice to their problems. The members are working in order to have an Association open to the Community, to act for integration into society and contribute to the fight against the growing neo-Nazi movement. One of the challenges is that members are coming from different ethnic groups, which are often in tension. Fighting for legal recognition, and at the same time trying to live with dignity in an environment that excludes migrants from its norms, are the basic challenges the members are facing daily. On the other hand, the Association is funded by its own members; therefore the viability of the organisation and its actions is always a question. The board of the Association is open to cooperation with NGOs or receives financial support from the State or the European Union, in order to have the ability to continue its actions.

Future perspectives:

The Association is developing actions to have a more powerful role in the fight against legal and social exclusion that migrants face in Western society. They participate in the “Network recording of racist violence” in Greece, and they are taking part in the “Council for Immigrants’ Integration” in the Municipality of Athens. Their final goal and constant demand is for the participation of migrants’ Associations in public consultations on migration and integration policies.