Promoting dialogue in Greek refugee sitesIn efforts to understand and address the needs of the refugee community, the Danish Refugee Council’s protection team in Greece has set up regular focus group discussions as well as awareness raising and sensitisation sessions in refugee sites throughout the country. Ensuring a safe group setting makes it possible to collect detailed information and insight about the lives of the residents and their everyday struggles.
“Having a place to share your concerns is liberating,” Fatime from Afghanistan said during the last parenting session organized by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) in Greece.
With support from European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO), DRC has taken the initiative to facilitate Focus Group Discussions (FGD) as well as awareness raising and sensitisation sessions in Greek mainland sites. Protection teams in each site reach out to refugee communities, locating the appropriate area where the discussions will be held, designing the agenda according to the residents’ needs and serving as a moderator, during the discussions.
Groups are usually small, composed of five to twelve participants, led through an open discussion by the DRC protection team. The participants, who share similar backgrounds or experiences, gather to discuss specific topics of interest. The agenda is carefully prepared, including topics such as living conditions, parenting and security concerns, varying from site to site and capturing issues that participants feel are of significance to them.
“There comes a time when we need to talk as adults” explained Hamide, an Afghan mother attending parenting sessions in Schisto site.
Sessions aimed at awareness raising and sensitisation, as well as FGDs are structured around predetermined topics and engagement questions, allowing a smooth flow of discussion between the participants. The added value of sessions and FGDs rests on allowing participants to agree or disagree with each other, understanding the thoughts of the group and the range of opinions about an issue. In terms of beliefs and practices, variations may even be noted between members of the same community.
“Parenting sessions have been very successful, since the day they started,” DRC’s protection officer in Attica, Laurence explained. “Parents are invited to join the sessions on a weekly basis, since certain refugee sites, like Rafina* and Schisto mainly host families. The groups are separated into Arabic and Farsi speakers and may be divided into team of mothers and fathers based on their culture. Among key topics are children’s needs, dealing with trauma and communication between parents and children. Parents are given a venue to discuss their roles within the family and challenges they face, exchanging good practices. Roleplay and other activities are also encouraged in order to empower parents and ensure children’s welfare.”
“New arrivals are not always aware of the services available in camps or how to access them. There is also confusion and lack of information about the actors who are active in Koutsochero,” concluded DRC’s protection trainees, Jonathan and Zainab, who served as moderators in FGDs in Central Greece.
Facilitating the discussion and maintaining a neutral attitude are the moderator’s main objectives. However, DRC may intervene when appropriate, by contacting other actors or adopting measures in order to address participants’ concerns and improve living conditions for all residents in mainland sites.
*The Rafina site closed late 2017.