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USB AGAINST RACISM: 21st of March European-wide Action Week Against Racism By Philipa Nikolova March 22, 2013

Posted by usbngo in Older Posts.

Imagine coming by feet from Somalia to Greece!

Imagine that you will never see your family and friends again!

Imagine yourself living in a classroom for a year!

Imagine everyone staring at you on the street!

Imagine spending a year without going outside for a coffee or beer!

Imagine a situation where nobody speaks your language!

What is it to be a refugee?

Read the stories of the people living in a refugee camp in Thessaloniki. They were much more positive about their future and more cheerful than most of the people that I meet on the streets in my everyday life!


Philipa: When did you immigrate to Thessaloniki?

Zina, Algeria: in June last year. The third of June.

Hadan, Somalia: One year ago.

Where have you been before coming here?

Zina: I went to Turkey and after that to Greece. I stayed in Turkey for 10 days. 

Hadan: I went from Somalia, to Syria, to Turkey, and I came here. I came by feet.

Did you know anyone here before you arrived?

Zina: No, I just went to the Greek Council for refugees. They helped me to go to get a pink cart for staying here. I don’t know any Greek people.  People here are very difficult.

Hadan: It’s just me and my husband.

Why did you come exactly here?

Zina: If I can, I will move. I will go to Spain. My husband is living there for seventeen years. He returned to Algeria in 2006 because his father is sick.  He cannot return to Spain.  Here there is no job, no money, anything.

HadanI want to go to another country, I want to go to Sweden, because here is not good, there is no job, it’s not good to live here. In Somalia there is a big problem.


Do you have documents?

Zina: Getting documents is very difficult.  Also the people in the camp, some of them are here for 5, 7, 10 years, but we just have a document that permits us to stay in Greece. With this card you cannot travel. You have to stay in Greece.  It’s only if you walk in the streets and the police stops you this is enough not to have problems. If you don’t have it, you go to the prison.

How did you understood about the camp?

Zina:  From the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR). My husband was here, because he is sick. GCR helped us with medicines, and gave me a room here. Actually it’s not a room for living, it’s a classroom, the children come here to learn. My husband is 47 years old, he has a girl in Spain. He is divorced. We don’t have money, we cannot rent a house, and the people don’t want to rent a house for refugees.

Do you speek Greek? Do you want to learn it?

Hadan: No. Why to study, I don’t want to stay here.

Zina: No. I don’t like this country, I don’t like this language.  I want to go out. I have university degree; I have worked in Algeria for 10 years in the police of Algeria. I have problems with the family of my husband. That’s why I came but here is not good. I have problem with the brother of my husband.


Do you feel any prejudice?

Hadan: The Greek people don’t speak with another people. When they see my skin color they don’t speak.

Do you think that in Sweden it will be different?

Hadan: Yes, I have friends there, my aunt is there.

How do you want to change your live?

Hadan: I hope my child Muhammad will live in Sweden. Greece is beautiful, but there is no work, anything for live. If I’m sick I can’t go to a hospital. Greece is not good for living, but for tourism. It’s good if you have money. I don’t want a lot of money, just enough to live.

Philipa: When did you immigrate to Thessaloniki?

Zeineb, Afghanistan: I came two years ago.

Zahra, Afghanistan: Five months ago.

Nahir, Afghanistan: Four months ago.

Akel, Iran: I’ve been here for twelve years.


Why did you decided to come here?

Zahra: My husband didn’t have money, didn’t have job and we came to this camp. Because it’s free.

Nahir: I used to live in Athens. We didn’t have money to rent a house and we came to Thessaloniki.

Aren’t there refugee’s camps in Athens?

Nahir: No.

Why did you decided to leave your country? And why did you choose Greece?

Zeineb: I have been also to other countries, but it’s very difficult to go from Greece to another country. When I go to the airport I don’t have passport that’s why I’m staying in Greece.

Zahra: We don’t like Greece. I want to go to another country. Living here is very difficult.

Akel: I don’t know, I don’t remember.

Where have you been before you came here?

Zeineb: I come from Iran, to Turkey and after that I came here in Greece.

Zahra: I lived in Iran, after I went to Turkey and I came to Greece. I stayed in Turkey for one month.

Did you know anyone here before you arrived?

Zeineb: Yes, my husband’s cousin is living here.

Did you feel any culture shock?

Zeineb: I come from Iran, my parents are from Afghanistan but I haven’t been there. Here is very different from Iran. In Iran is better than here, it is better if you are Muslim. Here is very difficult for a Muslim. When I’m going in the streets the people see me, they say she is a Muslim, they always ask me: Where are you from? For me it’s difficult, but in Iran the police always take the Afghan people. It’s difficult to be Afghan in Iran, I don’t have pin card, it’s very difficult to live in Iran, so we came here, but I want to go to another country, and to live better.


 Where do you want to go?

Zeineb: I want to go to Austria.

Zahra: I want to go somewhere else. To Germany.

Did you expect Greece to be like this?

Zeineb: Greece is very different from the other countries. To live here is very difficult for me; the language is difficult, I don’t have job. I don’t learn Greek. I live here two years but I don’t speak Greek.

Do you have Greek friends or you stay with the people from the camp?

Zeineb: No, I don’t have Greek friends. I have friends from Afghanistan, Syria. Mostly Afghan.

How did you understood about this camp?

Zahra: My brother lives here.

Are there a lot of refugee camps in Thessaloniki?

Zeineb: Yes, many.

Do you have a job?

Zeineb: No I can’t find job because I don’t know the language. My husband doesn’t know Greek, my daughter is going to school, and she understands Greek a little.

Akel: Yes I’m translator from Farsi to Greek.

Zahra: I don’t have a job. My husband neither.

Nahir: There is no job. But also I’m pregnant.

Have you worked before?

Nahir: No. In Afghanistan we always take care of the children at the house.

Do you feel integrated in the society?

Zeineb: The people on the streets always see me. When I walk next to the sea they ask me: Are you a tourist? And I’m saying: no I’m not.

Zahra: I don’t like the live here because I always stay in the camp.  I’m not going out in the neighborhood. 

Akel: I like it here. I feel as Greek now. I’m too much years here –maybe twelve, maybe eleven.  I came in 2003 I think. I don’t feel like immigrant or refugee.

Do you live here in the camp?

Akel: Yes.

Do you have your documents already?

Akel: Yes, but my sister doesn’t have.

Do you feel any prejudice? Are the people friendly with you?

Zeineb: No, they are not friendly. Maybe some are friendly but very few.

Zahra: Yes, because I wear a scarf. But nobody is asking me questions.

Are you happy that you came here?

Zahra: No, I’m not happy. I cannot even go to a hospital if I need it because I don’t have documents.

How do you want to change your live?

Nahir: I want to go to another country.

Photos by Ana Maia



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