Athens, Greece – About one in 10 of the 60,000 refugees in Greece do not live in government camps or NGO shelters, but in squats such as disused schools which operate under the protection of the anarchist movement.
In these corners, refugees from Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq are creating their own community centres in Athens. Now that they have food, clothing and education, they are striving for fuller lives and self-empowerment.
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Jafra is the first relief organisation in Greece formed exclusively by refugees. Among its initiatives is a series of dance lessons for refugee children to connect with their culture.
“Almost all the world believes that refugees are weak,” Housam Jackl, Jafra spokesperson, told Al Jazeera.
“They came from war, by smugglers to the sea. We believe that the refugees have a lot of experience. They can organise [community activities] by themselves. We wanted to change the image of refugees.”
Most Jafra members are women, who have organised a knitting room. They sold clothes for a small income.
Other members work in building or plumbing.
The refugee-run squats and Jafra provide an added bonus: diversity. Refugees of all backgrounds make a point of working together, putting aside differences as a first step towards their European integration.
Follow John Psaropoulos on Twitter: @thenewathenian