The laundry space in Skaramangas: More than just washing clothes

Being constantly on the move, refugees often have trouble finding where to wash their clothes and personal items. In Greek hosting sites, where people stay until their asylum procedure is concluded, laundry services can make a difference in daily life. For the residents of Skaramangas hosting site in Attica, however, the laundry space is about more than just washing clothes.
 
 

22.02.2018

A washing machine may be taken a given for most of us, but for refugees and especially women who take care of their households it is often a luxury.

Sharifa is from Afghanistan and feels that a laundry space is one of the most important services provided on site. “Here, we have the space we do not have at home to wash our clothes,” she says, referring to the prefabricating boxes where refugees live in Skaramangas. “And, anyway, washing by hand is not the same with having a laundry machine, plus it gives us more time to spend with family,” she adds.   

More than 2000 people live in Skaramangas site and each can have up to 2 daily washes including all members in a family. DRC took over the laundry space almost a year ago and has applied a regulated system to avoid overcrowding and ensure provision of laundry services for all, putting an end to arguments and feelings of favoritism.

“Although this wasn’t one of the most exciting activities, our team realized how it could improve people’s lives in more than one way. Living in a camp among different ethnic communities and people who have been deprived of a home for some time, can be challenging,” says Fenia Diamanti, DRC Attica Area Manager.  

The DRC team has also worked to set the laundry space as an example of hygiene standards, while carrying out daily dislodging, weekly cleaning of the washing and drying machines and overall maintenance every month.

But more than a place where people wash clothes, the laundry space in Skaramangas has gradually become a communal melting pot, a space of hygiene promotion and a meeting point for women.

“It is a nice space,” says Konstadina, DRC Laundry staff supervisor. “Women of all ethnicities meet here, they breastfeed, they babysit each other’s kids and share their concerns with each other,” she adds pointing to the benches inside and outside the laundry space.

DRC continuously seeks to empower refugee communities through Site Management Support services, in cooperation with IOM Greece and with support from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund of the European Union, in nine refugee sites across Greece.