The Greek refugee crisis of 2015 sharped the creativity of hundreds of volunteers all around the world to find new ways of helping who was escaping from war, violence and poverty. A shelter and a hot meal were not the only things that refugees had to struggle for once arrived in Greece. The lack of knowledge about their rights and moves to do without being overwhelmed by bureaucracy was a further element of anxiety in their already tricky psychological situation. That is how a group of European volunteers that had met in the Eidomeni Camp decided to create an alternative but not less useful form of support: the mobile info team for refugees in Greece, where the precious cargo to be donated was, specifically, information.
At present, there are twelve volunteers operating in the headquarter in Thessaloniki. Once a week they have a meeting to arrange guidelines and tasks, and also to discuss the news in the EU regulatory framework of receiving refugees, that is constantly evolving and not always in the good direction. For example last April Germany has drastically reduced the number of family reunification transfers, that means people who try to rejoin their beloved moving from the country in which they arrived to the one where a member of their family was already living. This should take up to eleven months but now “even people who have had their transfer approved” says Michael Kientzle one of the founders of the MIT project “could be waiting for another three years or might not even be allowed to fly”. For this reason, he launched a petition “Family Reunification from Greece: Let them be together again!” that will go straight to the German Interior Minister and that everyone can sign from the organization website.
The MIT organizes weekly visits to camps and solidarity accommodations to meet people and give them information mainly about the status of their asylum requests, family reunification and relocation around Europe. On a hot August afternoon, the car driven by the volunteers arrives in the central park of Katerini, a town one hour drive from Thessaloniki, well known for the large number of families that decided to host refugees in their houses despite the austerity dictated by years of crisis. Waiting for them there at least thirty people, men, women and a lot of children, the majority of them coming from Syria and Kuwait. Their eyes reveal gratitude and worry, hope and uncertainty, in a mixture of feelings hard to manage. The team has an English /Arabic translator and this helps to let these people feel more comfortable in the jungle of bureaucracy in which their life has been trapped. The way that they act and speak to the volunteers let on that the job of MIT is really precious for them. A girl, mother of four children and pregnant, is waiting to join her husband in the UK, but the waiting time seems endless and it’s not easy to manage this situation alone. The team will take care of it, giving her also the chance to be accompanied in the offices in Athens. Another man in his fifties speaks in English and pointing to the kids, playing barefoot on the ground, says: “It’s a shame, none of them is going to school. People have to know this truth”.
The work of MIT is made easier by the use of social networks. Their facebook page is always updated with relevant news for refugees both in English and Arabic, written in simple words, understandable from everybody. From the process of children’s registration at school to the timetable of asylum offices, people can just take their phone and directly find an honest counsel for their questions. Easy, free, quick. All this is financed by private donations, meaning that one more time it is up to the ordinary people to get into the cracks of the governmental policies and give back some hope to humanity.
It is possible to support MIT at www.mobileinfoteam.org/donate/