“If you don’t give them the right tools, how do you expect them to rebuild their lives?”
A newly opened shelter for young men promotes better integration and self-reliance of unaccompanied refugee boys transitioning to adulthood
When a refugee child turns 18, he or she is required to leave the shelters for unaccompanied minors, facing major risks of becoming homeless. Men are usually less prioritized for receiving accommodation. Single refugee men often fall through the cracks when it comes to receiving aid. They are perceived as capable of protecting and supporting themselves, not in need of special assistance and strong enough to find their way. During the journey, they have often helped families carrying bags or even children. But tensions have risen after long months living in despair, in undignified conditions and in legal limbo inside and outside the refugee community. Single men are also not prioritized to receive aid, contrary to single mothers with new born babies or unaccompanied children. It is well justified to prioritize such cases, but the possible negative impacts of always coming last should not be undermined.
CARE and its local partner, PRAKSIS, have established a youth shelter for unaccompanied young refugee men between the age of 18 and 22, funded by the European Commission. The motivation behind this project is based on the motto that vulnerabilities can be reduced if skills and self-reliance can be enhanced. This also positively influences educational and employment opportunities. As a result, young boys, can discover and strengthen their existing competences, find motivation and the necessary support to build their own future and finally gain independence.
Common area in the youth shelter for unacconpanied young refugee men, where they can relax, socialize and create a home for themselves. Photo: CARE Greece
Motivation and emotional support are key elements in this process. “The biggest challenge of the day, every day, is to get them to wake up early”, says Evi Vlachou, PRAKSIS’ Coordinator of the youth shelter. “They show an extreme interest to study and do all sorts of activities, including sports, but they often lack motivation. They sleep a lot during the day, a symptom that is usually connected to the early stages of depression, and then just go out to visit their friends. Imagine this shelter may be the fourth or fifth place to which they have changed within a year. How would you feel if people you don’t really know kept transferring you from one place to another and without any information on what will happen next? It is very difficult for them.”
Common area in the youth shelter for unacconpanied young refugee men, where they can relax, socialize and create a home for themselves Photo: CARE Greece
The youth shelter, funded by the European Commission, is one of the first shelters hosting only young men, thus addressing an important gap related not only to gender but also age. As Evi explains, “this shelter comes to fill the gap that young refugees in Greece have to face once they turn 18. Usually, boys below the age of 18 are supported by aid programs for unaccompanied minors. However, after their 18th birthday, they are no longer considered eligible for such programs and are suddenly left to survive by themselves. Where are those kids supposed to go? In the youth shelter we support them until they are able to stand on their feet. Career counselling, vocational trainings, educational support and psychosocial and legal support are all part of the assistance they can receive, corresponding to their exact needs, strengths and talents. If you don’t give them the right tools, how do you expect them to rebuild their lives?”
By Vangi Dora (firstname.lastname@example.org)
About CARE in Greece: With 70 years of experience and long-term presence in many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries, CARE takes a comprehensive approach to emergency response: first by working with communities to prepare for and mitigate the impact of disasters; then by partnering with local groups to provide immediate assistance when an emergency hits; and finally by working with affected communities to help them recover after the crisis has passed. With the influx of refugees to Europe, CARE started providing emergency assistance to refugees stranded in Greece, including cash, protection and accommodation. The project is funded by the European Commission.
PRAKSIS (PROGRAMS OF DEVELOPMENT, SOCIAL SUPPORT AND MEDICAL COOPERATION) is an independent Non-Governmental Organisation whose main goal is the design, application and implementation of humanitarian programs and medical interventions. Their beneficiaries are any person that faces social and/or financial exclusion and is deprived of basic goods: Greek poor, homeless, uninsured, economic immigrants, asylum seekers/ refugees, unaccompanied minors, trafficking victims, sex workers, children begging in the streets, injection drug users, Roma, HIV seropositive people/PLWA, Hepatitis B and C patients, MSM, prisoners, people released from prisons. PRAKSIS implements programs throughout Greece and mostly in Attica, Central Macedonia, Lesvos Island and Patras area.
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