CURING THE LIMBO
Athens has been at the forefront of the 2015 refugee crisis, or “Autumn of Solidarity.” Out of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who arrived to Greece through the Turkish border, over 60.000 people are still in the country and many of them will stay in Athens for a long period, often in a limbo, the in-between state of inactivity and apathy. In this situation, the challenge of public institutions and civil society organisations is no longer to provide the basic emergency services to the freshly arrived individuals and families, but to help refugees exit the limbo and pave the way to their long-term integration. Integration is a complex process that requires many elements: speaking the local language, interacting with one’s environment, having a job and a place to live are fundamental conditions for being part of a community. Helping refugees move from apathy to activity is the first step in this process.
Curing the Limbo, an initiative by the Athens Municipality, connects the issues of integration, housing, exchange economy and active citizenship in a complex programme that helps refugees get involved in neighbourhood initiatives, learn new skills and access the labour market and permanent housing. Curing the Limbo is funded by the EU’s Urban Innovative Actions Programme, helping cities to develop new, innovation solutions for some of the most burning problems they are facing.
This is the first podcast in a series to explore various aspects of Curing the Limbo. In this episode, UIA expert Levente Polyák looks into the active citizenship component of the programme. Curing the Limbo builds on the thriving local civic ecosystem of Athens. One of the partners in the project consortium, the Athens Municipality’s community platform synAthina has been mapping, assessing and helping citizen initiatives across the city since 2014. In Curing the Limbo, synAthina focuses on neighbourhoods and initiatives and spaces that can involve refugees in their activities, helping them develop skills, get to know communities and contribute to the creation of a positive impact on a neighbourhood. The platform provides the connection between refugees and neighbourhood groups and initiatives, allowing beneficiaries of the programme to engage with civic activities and to actively contribute to the quality of public spaces and services of Athens.
In this second episode of the Curing the Limbo podcast series, UIA expert Levente Polyák explores how education and training activities within the programme help refugees. The project’s trajectory invites refugees to participate in language courses, audio-visual and ICT trainings and engage with citizen initiatives. These activities help them develop new skills, gradually enter the job market and access housing. In this podcast, Levente returns to the Serafio building, the Curing the Limbo headquarters, located in the Western side of the centre of Athens. Here he joins English and Greek language classes and audio-visual trainings to see how the project’s unique education methodology works in practice. He meets the project’s coordinators and teachers, and interviews refugees about their experiences, combining different voices to create a more nuanced picture of the programme. By collecting testimonies during different visits and from a variety of people involved in the programme, Levente offers a highly personal account of the challenges and opportunities refugees encounter in their endeavour to find a new home in Athens.