Refugee children in Greece ventured out for a boat trip in order to replace traumas of the past with new joyful experiences at sea. Photo: DRC

Boat trip transforms painful memories for refugee youth in Greece

Many of the children and youth who have arrived in Greece as refugees have endured dangerous and traumatic experiences while crossing the sea. As part of our activities for refugee children, the Danish Refugee Council in Greece took children from the Lagadikia hosting sites for a trip, which sought to combat fear of the sea and providing a day free from the many everyday worries and uncertainties, many of the children have.


Thousands of asylum seekers have arrived on the Greek islands of the eastern Aegean in the past two years, the first station of their odyssey in Europe, before moving to the mainland or to northern countries. Among them, refugee teenagers wait in hosting sites with their families for asylum procedures to be concluded.

In Lagadikia hosting site, north Greece, DRC Child Friendly Space (CFS) and Protection staff often team up for activities inviting refugee teens to understand their new surroundings and help them start leading a normal life once again.

In July, the teams organized a trip to the city of Thessaloniki for refugee teens between 11 and 17 years old, which included a mini boat tour at Thermaikos bay. This brought up many memories and discussions about past experiences which helped the children create common bonds.

“The idea of the ‘sea’ and ‘water’ was constantly appearing in most of the discussions, drawings and expressions in our activities, often as an unpleasant experience,” says DRC CFS assistant, Majd Sharia.

“In a city like Thessaloniki, which is vastly open to the sea, the children found themselves with contradicted feelings. On the one hand, they recalled their painful journey of crossing Aegean waters for a better life. On the other hand, there is determination and hope to overcome these traumatic feelings. These children who decided to go on a sea trip are courageous - they show solid and pure determination of a promising future,” Majd adds.

Leen and Dua, two 11- year-old girls from Syria and Iraq, shared their experiences of the boat tour and memories. “I remember the boat that took us from Chios [island] to Thessaloniki the first time, but now I have more confidence, I breathe better. That boat was huge and scary, but remembering it now feels better than before,” says Leen.

After the boat tour in Thessaloniki bay, the teenagers shared their experiences from their perilous journeys inside dinghies towards Greece but also their dreams for the future.

The Danish Refugee Council implements humanitarian support to ensure protection of and dignified living conditions for asylum seekers in Greece. It also provides Site Management Support (SMS) in 9 mainland sites with the support of the European Commission's department for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO). As part of SMS activities, DRC frequently organizes events to empower refugees in Greek mainland sites.