Refugee children find a “safe space” in Greek sitesGreece has been a gateway for people seeking international protection and asylum in Europe. Many are families with small children who have lost their feeling of security after losing their home. At the Danish Refugee Council's "Child Friendly Spaces", children are provided a safe place to be children again.
Greece currently hosts over 46.000 refugees and migrants including a number of families with children. Many have been staying at sites supported by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), with European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid funding. In humanitarian crisis, children are the most vulnerable group and deserve special attention.
Both in transit and destination countries, refugee children may face great risks; they may become victims of poverty, human trafficking, exploitation and social marginalization. The violent onset of emergencies, the disruption of families and community structures as well as the acute shortage of resources may deeply affect their physical and psychological well being.
In order to improve and enhance the protection and care of refugee children, DRC in Greece has set up “child friendly spaces” on Greek mainland sites. A “child friendly” space (CFS) is a protected environment where children of all ages can meet and participate in organized activities. Some of these activities aim at improving children’s cognitive and psychosocial level or raising public awareness. Parents are also invited and often participate as volunteers, putting their own skills to use and helping the implementation of activities.
Life in a refugee camp is not easy. But for most of the children, the CFS provides them with a daily routine, a sense of normality and something to look forward to every day. They get to socialize, play and express themselves, develop a sense of the future. The CFS agenda may include sport activities (basketball, football, outdoor team games), art projects, (painting, drawing, collage, handmade creations, photography courses), or communicative activities (dancing, theatre, role play acting performances, storytelling, conversation times).
One of the children’s favourite activities this year was the the “Human Rights for all” Photo Exhibition, at the French Institute of Larissa (Central Greece) held between 24 and 30 of October. CFS teams joined forces with other organizations and the municipality of Larisa for this exhibition as part of the Hate-Free Larissa program, a 4-month project targeting hate speech, xenophobia, racism and discrimination in the city.
''Hey, look! I took this photo!'', a group of refugee children said in one voice, proudly pointing to different shots. During the summer, 47 children at Koutsochero CFS were given disposable cameras and were introduced to the art of photography.
Developing the films, the DRC team found that children had masterfully captured joyful moments of their childhood along with images of life on the refugee site. One of the 47 photographs was selected by the “Hate free Larissa” project for a prize.
'Look how much I grew up since I took this photo'', 12 year old Mohamad Badei said pointing to himself in front of his friends.
“This was an amazing experience”, added one of the fathers accompanying the children back from the exhibition.
Restoring refugees and asylum seekers’ daily life, through educational and protection activities is a priority for DRC. Child friendly spaces aim to offer a stable environment for them, providing access to life-saving information, education and recreational activities, while addressing psychosocial needs at the same time.