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People MCH LSE Refuge City ATH Refugee Info 003

Get to know the newcomers, activists and volunteers we met in Athens, Berlin and London, as they share their personal experiences of refuge, welcome and the digital city.


Apo

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Apo
Exarcheia, Athens, November 2018

It’s not easy to leave everything behind and become a refugee. I am a political refugee. I had no expectations when I came here because I had no choice but to come. Turkey wasn't safe for me. I was not certain whether I would be alive or dead at the end, so I just had to go. I didn’t think about the future. When I crossed the river on the border, I felt somehow safer. Even when I was arrested by the Greek police, I felt safe because I thought, 'This is Europe, it’s Greece.'

The only difference between having a residence permit and having a refugee card is in mobility. Now I have a residence permit and I don’t have to worry about extradition. I may only encounter problems when I travel beyond Greece, if Turkey notifies Interpol. When I get my passport, that’s when I’ll visit my friends in Europe, in Germany, Belgium, Holland.

(hostility)

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Refugees here are like survivors. There is no financial support for them. In recent years, I felt Greek people started looking at me in a negative way. A lot of people are coming and the economic crisis has changed people’s psychology. You need a job, but there are no jobs. Two years ago, me and my friend Aynour decided to set up this stall and started selling this vegetarian Turkish kefte, 'tsig kefte', but with a 'secret' recipe! In the summer it’s difficult because it’s so hot, but I’m happy with my job. Maybe I cannot earn a lot of money, but I can make my own plans and I can do other things when I want to because it’s my own business.

(austerity, Athens)

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I feel good here, like an old person after work. At first, I was sad, because I had to leave my whole family and my friends in Turkey. I felt like a fish out of water. My relatives told me to go to Athens because there are people we know there. Now I have some good friends here and I’m happy about that. The Greeks are just like Turkish people, with just a small difference: for us, when you have an appointment at a certain time, you will be there, it's important. For Greek people, it’s not like this, they are always late!

(connection)

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Maybe in a way, it’s easier to talk to people who are far away, but after talking to them, I feel sad... I left my son with his mother in Turkey. He is ten years old now. If you have children, you can understand. My son is safe but the only thing is that because of the circumstances and the economic crisis in Turkey, they struggle financially. His mother and I divorced after I came here. It was really hard, being a refugee and having also to face divorce... I hope my mother and my son will be able to visit me soon. Just to visit, I cannot ask for more. There is no possibility for them to stay here. My plan is to live in Greece, but almost nothing in my life, here or anywhere, could be described as 'certain'. I do hope I can return to Turkey one day, but only if the regime and status quo changes. The whole of Turkey is like a prison right now and any attempt to go back there would mean at least a long term of imprisonment, if not death...

(hope)

Update June 2020 — During the last year and a half, life for refugees has gotten worse... they were afraid in the past but now they are even more afraid. After being forced to migrate from their countries due to various difficulties and problems, they are now facing psychological, physical and mental pressures in the lands that they were seeing as a place of refuge. This link underlines what I'm describing.

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