On Wednesday, June 29, 2016, Impact Hub Athens officially launched the Techfugees Athens chapter by hosting a first event “In transit” bringing together immigrants and refugees, representatives of humanitarian organisations, and active citizens in partnership with Techfugees.
Attendees gathered to share their stories and to exchange ideas in an effort to map the needs and draft proposals on long-term solutions that can help tackle the integration challenge of the refugee crisis. What became clear after this event, is the immediate need for a more effective documentation of the skills and competences these migrant populations possess.
The day started with a series of creative workshops at Athens Comics Library, designed and carried out by educators affiliated with Comicdom. Distinguished Greek comic artists, members of the library and teenagers from the “Society for the Care of Minors” worked together and created their own original comics.
During the panel discussion, that was scheduled later in the day and was coordinated by Elena Mavromichali of Impact Hub Athens, different representatives from NGOs and social enterprises, joined the conversation.
Among them, Sevi Papadopoulou and Maria Chantzoplaki of ActionAid Hellas shared their account of efforts in social mobilization activities for women refugees in the context of ActionAid’s Emergency Programme at the Hospitality Center for Refugees in Schisto and Scaramangas and also at ActionAid’s Day Center for Women. Both panelists spoke about the need to design and implement more programs that can help bring to light the skills and talents of refugees and migrants. Georgios Karagiannis of Solidarity Now, spoke about the “bigger picture” around the same issuestressing that the crisis we are all experiencing today is not only humanitarian but also deeply political.
Can a social media campaign generate new ideas and solutions for the integration of immigrants and refugees?
Pavlina Protaiou, founder of BeyondCSRnet (member of Impact Hub Athens) joined the panel to present the results of “Twitter Resolution Call on Refugee Crisis”. The campaign was launched during March 2016 and was the first grassroot public diplomacy awareness campaign via an open social-media dialogue where selected individuals and organizations tweeted their ideas on tangible solutions on refugee integration in Europe using specific hashtags.
Hamed Arian and Hawad Faryad, who both work as interpreters with the Coordination Group at the hot spot in Oinofyta, recounted stories of their own odyssey while highlighting the lack of a clear plan towards the establishment of a Greek language school for migrants.
Next on the panel, was Khan Yousafzai, originally from Pakistan who lives in Greece for 12 years now and works for METAdrasis as an interpreter and translator, contributing to the work of the organization mainly on asylum, health and social problems. He spoke about the need for cooperation between local communities and displaced populations to create new jobs, in some cases reviving professions and small businesses in Greece.
During the panel discussion, we also tried to further highlight another perspective of the issue, that often passes unnoticed: the skills and knowledge these people possess and how the qualifications of migrant and refugees populations. Indeed, there is an important need to co-create and have refugees take active participation to the discussion.
Solomon magazine, whose team also joined the discussion, has created a concept towards that direction. “The fact that someone is a refugee or immigrant, does not mean they can only talk about this issue,” stated Rosa Vassilatou, editor in chief at Solomon magazine, which works with a multinational editorial team, offering the chance to migrants to cover different subjects whle using their knowledge and skills.
Right after, Lida Tsene of Impact Hub Athens announced the official collaboration between Impact Hub Athens and the international Techfugees network.
Concluding the event, Mike Snyder, US Embassy Cultural Attaché in Athens, announced a partnership between the US Embassy in Athens and Impact Hub Athens to hold a three-day hackathon in October aimed at solving practical problems faced by the refugee and migrant communities in Greece. The hackathon will bring together long-term and newly-arrived migrants and refugees with developers, social entrepreneurs, and NGOs to come up with scalable and sustainable solutions to real issues.
The day ended on a festive note in the summery Impact Hub Garden, with a photography exhibition by Nadir Noori, drinks, music and world cuisine curated by Solomon’s multicultural editorial team.