“Welcommon” stands for “Welcome in common”. This is the name that four well-established social cooperatives (Wind of Renewal, Greek Forum of Refugees, Greek Forum of Migrants and ANASA Cultural Center) have chosen for this project.
This cooperative Model Hostel wants to offer much more than emergency accommodation.
The main objective is to provide quality-services housing for up to 120-150 asylum seekers for six-month periods or longer.
Social inclusion, empowerment and refugee integration are key aims of the initiative.
Refugees would receive food, clothing and health care to cover their basic needs, as well as information and various training opportunities, like language instruction, to promote their abilities and skills.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras committed last December to housing 50,000 refugees by the end of 2016, and this year Greece has already received 61,746 people who arrived by sea, according to UNHCR.
“Welcommon” could not be more timely.
“We would like to be operational by June,” said Nikos Chrysogelos, president of Wind of Renewal and one of the founders of the project, who recognizes that it depends on the funding.
Foundations in Greece, private donors and a crowd funding campaign are the most immediate options.
Chrysogelos does not close the door, however, on support from the EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), but admits that “it takes time and it is something for the future”.
Active participation of asylum seekers
Although Greek citizens have presented solidarity to refugees and there are a lot of initiatives for delivering food, clothes and other first–aid materials, there is a lack of organized policy and good practices for social inclusion, empowerment and integration for those refugees willing to stay in Greece or who at least want to stay longer.
“Now it starts with housing in apartments, but there is no experience in integration and entrepreneurship of the refugees and the migrants in Greece, especially in a cooperative way,” claims Chrysogelos.
“The personnel of the Hostel will be both migrants/refugees and Greek nationals. That means that through hosting we try to create job opportunities,” he explains. Refugees will also be put in contact with local initiatives looking for workers as technicians, nurses or doctors.