City: Athens and the territory of Greece
A self-organised network of migrants’ communities and associations, formed through continuous consultations with the objective of representing and strengthening the voice of migrants, organisations and communities in Greece as well as struggling for equal inclusion and participation in Greek society.
Photo courtesy of migrant.gr
Holding Organization: Greek Forum of Migrants Status: Network of Migrants’ communities and associations People involved in the project: 40 communities and associations of migrants living in Greece, representing 60% of the migrant population in Greece Public partners: European Fund of Immigrants and Ministry of Labour through collaboration with Labour Institute of GSEE in European projects Private Partners: Stavros Niarchos Foundation Sources and links: http://www.migrant.gr
The idea was to form a network of self-organised communities and to advocate for equal inclusion and participation in Greek society. The main goal is the development of cooperation and solidarity among migrant communities operating in Greece and to contribute in addressing the problems of migrants both individually and collectively, defending their rights and promoting proposals and inquiries into public discussion with representatives of the State and its institutions, politicians and social organisations. In this way, they are helping to improve policies related to migrants and assert their participation in dialogue processes and decision-making on issues concerning them.
The local context:
In Greece it is estimated that every 1 in 10 residents is a migrant, while the number of children who are the second generation of migrants accounts for approximately 200,000. The current immigration laws however leave many loopholes, hindering the integration of migrants into Greek society. There is no law regulating the issues of 2nd generation nor any antiracist law to protect migrants from racist attacks, which in recent years have multiplied with the rise of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn.
The starting point:
It all started in 2002 when a group of migrants of different nationalities, who had been living in Greece for years, realised that they were not covered by the actions of solidarity Greek groups or NGOs that were assisting them; thus, they decided there was a need to self-organise and undertake the responsibilities to fight for their legal recognition and integration into Greek society. For the first meetings, the network’s founders were gathering in an area of the Philippines’ community when the Western Union Company bestowed to them one of its offices to use it for the purposes of the Forum during the afternoon.
Steps and development of the action:
- September 2002: First meeting of the Founding team
- 2008: Recognition as a union secondary organisation of the Greek State-earning their own space through participation in a project (EQUAL) funded by the European Union.
- 2013: Relocating the offices of the Georgian community "Caucasus" because of financial problems
How does it work?
The Greek Forum of Migrants (GFM) has a board of 7 members; 2 of them come from countries of the Balkans and 5 from the different continents, with 1 coming from each continent. In this way, it is ensured the representation of all nationalities.
The main objective of GFM is to contribute to the difficult and long process of social integration of migrants into Greek society. The idea is that this process cannot be carried out without the involvement of the same target group, namely the migrants themselves. On the other hand this means that migrants must recognise that they have a duty to take responsibility for their own responsibilities.
GFM is the only “official’ interlocutor of the State when it comes to issues concerning migrants in Greece, primarily through its participation in the General Secretary of Immigration. Moreover, GFM conducts meetings with policy makers on migration laws, is making speeches at conferences, memos and press releases, press conferences and events on migration issues.
GFM organises the anti-racist festival in Athens each year, in collaboration with anti-racist organisations and NGOs. It also performs events and intercultural activities in partnership with relevant associations.
Furthermore, there is an office providing information and support for migrants with regard to legal, social, labour and psychological issues. It supports the particular issues of female migrant organisations and children of second generation migrants. In this space, lessons of Greek, English and computers occasionally take place, while many organisations use the offices of the GFM for their meetings and other activities, such as learning their native language.
Added value of the project and making resources available:
- Social benefits: creation of a network of migrant communities in Greece through the cohabitation of the different communities; strengthening integration into Greek society by fighting for legal rights; inspiring more associations to act with democratic and open collective procedures. - Shaping policies: participation of the Forum in the “Council for Immigrants’ Integration” in the Municipality of Athens and in other municipalities in the region of Attica; an advisory Council to strengthen migrants’ integration, a body which exists in every municipality in Greece; participation in the General Secretary of Immigration through GSEE (General Confederation of Workers in Greece). - Economic benefits: creation of a network for members to have access to legal and social services, food, housing, care, employment and culture, without having to pay exploiters for these services. Moreover, the participation in projects of the European Fund of Immigrants and Ministry of Labour, through collaboration with the Labour Institute of GSEE, offers jobs/working positions to members of the Forum and financial assistance to the communities (e.g. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation financed the creation and functioning of a youth centre for 2nd generation migrants, 2010-2012) - Ecological benefits: saving time and energy for access to resources by providing information to the members of the Forum; avoiding the waste of food, clothing and medical supplies by distributing to people in need, and sharing the rest with other corresponding associations and NGOs.
- The lack of funding and the difficult economic situation in general poses the biggest problem of the organisation. In addition, being hosted at the Georgian community of “Caucasus” has meant that the activities of GFM have shrunk.
- Despite all efforts, the State has not recognised the contribution of GFM to immigration issues and continues to pass laws on immigration without calling the migrants themselves and their organisations to participate in consultations on these laws.
The main goal for GFM is to become a recognised partner of the State to consult on anti-racism laws promoted at the present time across the country. In the meanwhile, there is a continued, definitive course of action to search for ways to contribute to the integration of migrants into Greek society.