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.
ECHO Refugee Library is like a pop-up, we respond to what people want in each space. In some spaces, it's language instruction, in others we just play board games and chat. We try to go where the need is most, where people want us and where they’re hanging out anyway.
People are always coming up to us and asking for specific information like health services or the immigration process, so we have to make sure we only share correct information or there could be consequences. There was this young girl here without papers and she asked us if it was true that she needed to go to the police station to get registered. This wasn’t true! She could have likely ended up in jail and deported. And this was information given to her by an official organization! So, sometimes they come for books, but many times they just want to have a conversation with us. This is amazing, this is the real role of libraries — not just for books but a place for information. A social centre.
Updates June 2020 —
Looking back at my time at the Echo Library, I remember so many beautiful moments. The Library was a really big lesson for me, a great school. It taught me about refugee and mobility issues as well as the responses of Greek communities and the government. It also introduced me to great people to hang out with and to develop a human net with. This human net has offered tremendous help and support. We still have discussions on things that need to be done now and, in the future, and we imagine collaborating again to work on them together. I encourage anyone who can help to do so, to connect with both refugees and with the Greek public. I just want to stress the importance of long-term support and initiatives and not temporariness. Things that come and go are part of the problem, especially in Greece. Support needs to be viable, to continue, in order to make a difference. — Varvara
European nations and the UK are continuing to use increased violence and policy to stop those seeking asylum from reaching land, claiming asylum, and settling. There is so much trauma and damage being done, and it’s incredible that pockets of safety can exist within spaces like the library. Echo is now run by two incredibly skilled and resilient women, and is continuing to play a central role in information and resource distribution across Attica alongside it’s library duties. I am so proud to be a part of that story. — Megan