One among millions

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Nowadays, one of the main world concerns is the refugee crisis. Millions of people are forced to move from their hometown or country for political, economic, social, religious and/or environmental reasons. This piece tells the story of one refugee among millions, Kamisha, an Afghani woman.

Since Afghanistan gained independence from British colonisation in 1919, the country has experienced multiple unstable political situations. Today, Afghans make up the second largest population of refugees (UNHCR).  making today the second country where most refugees came from (UNHCR). The political situation in the country declined when the Taliban group took political power in 1996, following a civil war. After the 9/11 attack in New York, the United States invaded and attacked Afghanistan, in response to the Taliban’s refusal to turn over Bin Laden. For 20 years, the US created a belligerent environment by controlling Afghanistan. After all this time, in 2019, the US and Taliban signed a peace deal agreement, according to which the US must withdraw from Afghanistan before May 2021. After this change, a lot of human rights were taken away from people, especially women’s rights.

Bearing this scenario, Kamisha, 37 years old, left the country in December 2023 and reached Greece with 7 other members of her family, including children. By boat, the family first arrived in Lesbos, on the east side of Greece and arrived in Thessaloniki one month later.

Kamisha and her family live in a refugee camp in the city, where they have a place to sleep and daily meals. Besides this support, she also regularly visits Irida’s Women’s Center, a non-profit organisation that provides support for women in vulnerable situations, such as refugee, migrant and/or Greek women economically and socially excluded, since 2016.

When Kamisha arrived in Greece she appealed to the asylum service provided by the Ministry of Migration and Asylum. This is an initiative in order to provide a residence permit and a travel document (allowing people to travel within EU member states), to those who have a refugee or a subsidiary protection status. In plain words, for those who had been forced to leave their country and cannot or do not wish to return to it, whether for fear of persecution, harm, suffering or execution, either for political, economic, social, religious and/or environmental reasons.

Right now, Kamisha and her family are waiting to make the positive decision, where they will get one of these status and be provided with the documents already mentioned. In the meantime, besides the refugee camp help, the Greek Government gives 200 euros monthly for the whole family. While waiting, Kamisha visits Irida regularly, where she fraternises with other women that are living in the same situation.

Their main 2 projects are the Protection and Livelihood programs. In the Protection program, the organisation provides casework, social services, legal assistance and court representation for cases under Asylum and Migration, Civil, and Criminal Law, psychological and psychosocial support. In the Livelihood program, Irida supports the women to navigate in the Greek job market, (re)build a career through employability services and offers digital literacy and language courses. Since the beginning of the year, Irida has been helping 428 women. In parallel, supporting both programs, Irida operates a Child’s Safe Space where pre-school children have the opportunity to learn and socialize in a safe environment while the mothers are participating in the programs.

What made Kamisha and her family leave Afghanistan was the constant feeling of being insecure and in danger, as she had been throughout some unpleasant situations and where her children weren’t safe going to school. Now in Greece, they restart their studies. Despite this situation of instability, Kamisha still has family in her hometown, who she speaks regularly through video calls.

Kamisha is, for now, safe. However, the refugee crisis is a really complex problem we all should be more conscious about and have the sensibility and empathy for it. If you liked this piece and personal testimonial, you can help Irida’s Women’s Center by donating the amount you want here.

Read more about Irida’s work here.

Note: Kamisha is a fictional name, in order to protect the privacy of the interviewee

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