“We need to feel useful again”

By Dora Vangi

Humanitarian assistance comes in many forms. In some countries humanitarian organizations support people in need by providing cash so that they can purchase basic supplies for their families and regain their dignity by having the freedom to buy what they need the most. In other countries they show them how to get together and efficiently save and invest small amounts of money to initiatives and projects which in the end will offer them a basic income. But when refugees and asylum seekers are found in a European country, what they need to build a stable life is to find a job in the already existing labor market, which, however, can be very challenging.

CARE in Greece, focusing on addressing needs of urban refugees and asylum seekers, offered a series of workshops in Arabic, English, Farsi and French aiming at enhancing refugees’ understanding of labour rights and obligations as well as facilitating their access to the labour market. The workshops were funded by the European Commission and were organized in collaboration with the Athens Labor Unions’ Organization and a local non-profit organization called Almasar. The workshops included sessions on CV and motivation letter writing, trainings on how to use job seeking platforms and offered meeting with relevant experts.

Photo: Seferoglou/CARE

However, what we found is that while finding a job is among refugees’ and asylum seekers’ priorities, their biggest concern relates to learning the Greek language. Children and teenagers can attend the public Greek schools and, when needed, special integration classes are also offered before they go to the Greek school, but for adults such opportunities are limited. Language barrier jeopardizes job seeking efforts. Last but not least, many reported to face problems providing proof of diplomas and certifications from Universities or previous work experience. Such documents are being requested by potential employers but often they were lost during the war or journey or simply left back at home. As a result, many, are not being able to prove their education and experience so are, dropped from the recruitment process.

One year ago, in December 2016, I wrote my first story for CARE under the title “The Waiting Limbo Of Refugees In Greece Through Taher’s Eyes” which described the efforts of a Syrian asylum seeker, to find a job and have a stable life in Greece despite the challenges that made him feel insecure and uncertain about his future. Today, Taher has found a job as an interpreter for a humanitarian organization, fulfilling his dream to help other people, but unfortunately, his story and his words continue to speak out for many.

More than 30,000 refugees will stay in Greece and as Syrian friend told me “Finding a job is the most important thing for us. We need to feel useful again. Useful for ourselves and useful for Greece because this is our new home”. Linking humanitarian work with supporting autonomy via employment is one of the most sustainable approaches for the future.

For more of our work in Greece, click here.