In Greece, the ancient notion of hospitality to strangers – sanctioned by Xenios Zeus himself as a god-given right – continues to persist. At a time when Greeks are barely able to scrape a living for themselves due to the economic crisis, they cannot turn their backs to foreigners in a land where doing so was once considered hubris. Known as “philoxenia” (hospitality to strangers), here are some places where solidarity, brotherhood and humanity are very much alive.
Created in 1997 by anti-racist groups and migrant communities to cater to the needs of economic immigrants that flooded into Greece from around the Balkans, the group continues to be as relevant as ever. The first migrant arrivals were struggling for legalization, equal rights or just some company. Despite the changing profile and needs of migrant and refugee communities today, the group has managed to adapt and offer an endless stream of humanitarianism to those who need it. These days, Steki – meaning “hangout” in Greek – caters to the changing situation with fortitude. Refugees can find everything from free lessons, food, legal advice and other basic needs. The group, apart from its day-to-day assistance towards migrants in very basic ways, also holds awareness-raising campaigns, such as its successful annual anti-racism festival – a celebration of multiculturalism. Located at 15 Tsamadou Street, Exarcheia, Steki Metanaston is right in the heart of a suburb renowned for its anarchy.
The Khora community is serviced by volunteers in a 5-storey building that offers a wide range of amenities and services such as free legal advice and medical check-ups. A safe haven for refugees with education and classes being offered to help refugees unleash their creativity. There building offers hang out areas, kids play zones and women’s spaces, the main drawcard of the center is its food thanks to a free restaurant system headed by Syrian cook named Hasan Mansur. He cooks up Syrian and Lebanese food that guests at the recently-opened centre hanker for. The center addresses the needs of its visitors as the original group, who envisioned Khora, were an international team of people that had spent time working on the islands that were flooded by refugees.
Melissa is a network for migrant women in Greece, promoting empowerment, communication and active citizenship. Tucked away on a side street off Victoria Square, the welcoming home offers “psychodrama” workshops for migrant women who have a chance, in this way, to release energy and better cope with their emotions. Other courses include Greek language learning, yoga, art and music too. There are free-of-charge consultations with psychologists in English, French and Greek as well as a whole host of other opportunities for women to share skills and ideas. The network named “Melissa” – meaning “Bee” – was co-founded by Nadina Christopoulou, an anthropologist. Call 21 0821 8486
The initiative, created by the movement known as “Deport Racism” in Athens, offers free Greek language lessons to migrants and refugees. Lawyers are also on call to give migrants advice. It is located at 145 Argos Street, Athens. Tel. 210 5130373 and 6945237837.
5. After Schools – Frontistirion Metanaston
Set up by Civis Plus, an NGO that aims to incorporate refugee and migrant children, into schools and society. For this reason it offers lessons to children, creative play as well as Greek courses for their parents. When necessary, charity drives are organized to gather clothes and other supplies. The officess are at 40-42 Koletti Street, Exarchia. Email email@example.com, telephone: 211 0121441.