Wow! What an amazing day we had today! I really can't believe how much I learned about the refugee crisis here in Greece from our gracious host Ioanna at Campfire Innovation. We spent our day working out of The Cube in central Athens. It is a co-working space for tech startups. The first 3-4 hours of the day Ioanna took us through some of the details of the refugee crisis. I will be the first to admit that I didn't completely grasp the situation and some of the logistics. I figured I would share some of the things that I found interesting or shocking with you guys. Here it goes.
1) There are 65 million displaced people in the world. 22 million of those are refugees.
2) By 2050 it is estimated that over 250 million people will be displaced - more than 1/2 of the population of Europe or 2/3 of the US population. This is based off of conflict, economic issues, and climate change.
3) Since 2015 over 1.1 million people have landed on Greek shores.
4) Most refugees went to Turkey first. This is because Turkey has very open immigration laws. However, Turkey is not providing work visas due to lack of employment opportunities. As a result refugees are forced to move on to become self sustainable.
5) Some countries such as Germany are offering asylum due to a need for employees in certain industries where young or unskilled workers are needed, but numbers are limited.
6) Under the Dublin Agreement a refugee can seek asylum in the country that they land in. Greece has a special exception that says if you land here that you can seek asylum in any other EU country. So refugees like to land here so that they can apply to several countries for asylum.
The Boat Journey
1) There is a wall at the land borders of Greece, so sea is the next best option.
2) Refugees land on various islands depending on multiple factors, but mainly the weather and currents. The most common route is only about four miles.
3) The Greek Coast Guard generally does not prevent refugees from entering. This is where it gets complicated. The smugglers take advantage of a maritime distress law that states you are legally required to assist any boat that is under distress (i.e.: sinking). So right before the raft floats into Greek waters the smugglers instruct the refugees to cut holes in their raft and let it sink. It is important to note that the smugglers are not on the rafts usually. From there the hope that a NPO on the Greek side will rush out to assist the sinking raft and take them to shore in Greece. Once there they can begin the asylum process.
4) The price of these journeys can vary from $500 to several thousands of dollars depending on things like the weather (a stormy night is much cheaper due to the dangers involved).
I am a refugee in Greece - Now what?
1) The asylum process isn't quick. It can take months to years to get placed with a country.
2) Selection for asylum is based off of various factors including education, skills, home country, and ethnicity. It is generally determined by the country granting asylum.
3) Many people are stuck here in Greece in camps because they do not meet the qualification criteria required for asylum (skills, education, etc).
4) The camps are segregated by religions or home countries.
5) Refugees have the freedom to come and go from the camps, but often to do not have the resources (or reason) to do so. Boredom is the #1 complaint.
6) Greece does not have jobs to offer these people due to their own financial crisis and a crippling 30% unemployment rate.
After our deep dive into the refugee crisis we had a quick lunch and then Ioanna was able to tell us more about some of the challenges they have at Campfire Innovation. My big take home is that they really could use some help with fundraising and specifically a CRM tool that helps them track donors and program participants. Lucky for them I work at Salesforce.org and may have some good ideas. More to come on that as the week develops!
I can't wait to see what tomorrow has in store for us. If you would like to help support the organizations I am working with please feel free to donate below!