The Greek Forum For Refugees
European Council on Refugees & Exiles-ECRE
Lead by the Greek Forum for Refugees, a network of Refugees Communities in Greece, RISE builds on previous partnerships with the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, and all the other refugee and migrant groups that showed interest in an EU network see list: http://refugees.gr/2016/02/16/263/.
For decades, refugee and migrant communities settled in Europe have been the bridges between newcomers and receiving societies, providing all kind of support and developing local solutions. RISE aims at ensuring refugee and migrant groups are not only considered as those receiving aid, but also as contributors whose knowledge can empower newcomers and societies.
RISE is an opportunity to strengthen refugee/migrants voices at the national and EU level.
EU (Greece, Hungary, Germany, Austria, Italy, UK, etc.)
Discussions and policies on relocation, reception, inclusion, or return are ongoing at the national and EU level. While all the decisions taken are and will directly impact refugees, migrants and receiving societies,their voices remain unheard.
RISE intends to create a basis for an refugee and migrant groups network across Europe that share dedication to engage with migration and social cohesion, and advocate at national and EU level. In one year’s time, refugee and migrant groups will have strong knowledge and produce recommendations, and actively promote them by participating in diverse fora. In the long run, refugee and migrant groups will be proactive partners whose voice and solutions will be taken into account.
RISE will have three phases:
1 Consultation with refugee/migrant groups on a number of common issues and possible solutions.
2 Workshops with group representatives to elaborate recommendations and communication with people involved in solutions development for newcomers.
3 Recommendations dissemination and active participation of the group in several fora (EU and regional meetings, hubs, citizen platforms).
Beneficiaries are refugees and migrants whose input will be included in policies that affect their lives; local communities and the EU as a whole will benefit from more inclusive policy making that takes into account those most affected by it and generate cohesion.
Funding requested from Advocate Europe
Staff :16 300 euros (coordination, input into methodology, questionnaire, analysis of results, support for round table, attending kick off and round table, support for advocacy and dissemination) Travel expenses 28 800 euros (Kick off meeting in Greece, Round table and advocacy meetings, Brussels) Overhead contribution 4 500 euros TOTAL : 49 600 euros
Our idea is different as it empowers refugees and migrants who usually do not have a say, as actors. Their input is vital if Europe is to grow and develop peacefully. RISE is an opportunity for Europe to reaffirm its fundamental principals of democracy and human rights, refugees and migrants participation and inclusion in European debate will undoubtedly encourage the adoption of informed expertise in decision making.
Due to our partner ECRE, the RISE network could benefit from our partner’s technical support, legal knowledge and advocacy experience at European level as well as from their large network of organizations working on refugee issues in different countries in Europe. Through these organizations we gained access to several refugee-led groups/organizations across Europe. In the frame of the further development of the network, we want to focus mainly on building and enhancing the capacities of the network members and to identify further advocacy opportunities at European level. Therefore, we need to identify the fields where the capacities should be increased and accordingly the needed training/trainer. Regarding the advocacy activities, we need to develop an advocacy strategy. Furthermore, we need to expand our cooperation to other organizations that work on refugee issues to achieve stronger recognition and to receive more support also regarding the dissemination of the network’s activities. The RISE network can provide expertise and experience on refugee related topics and act as a bridge-maker and mediator between refugees, asylum seekers and national authorities, institutions and local communities. Based on the network’s expertise recommendations and suggestions for ideas can been shared and promoted.
Based on the assessment of the evaluation performed by the network members at the end of the project the following main issues have been raised. The lack of a clear network’s structure was mentioned mainly based on the fact that the role of the national contact point was not clearly defined. On the one hand, some members wished to receive more capacity training and guidance, on the other hand, other members demanded to have more tasks delegated to the national contact points. This diverging perception illustrates the different capacities and expertise among the network members, which is challenging in order to meet all requirements and to create a functioning network. It is crucial to find a balance among the differing demands, to identify common grounds and to assign tasks and responsibilities to the national contact points based on their capacities and willingness to work. In that regard the implementation of a code of conduct for RISE network members was suggested that would determine the role, tasks and responsibilities of the RISE members to ensure the effective working flow of the network. Furthermore, the issue was raised that network members should more actively support each other (in accordance to their abilities and experience) and avoid that some network members dominated the discourse within the network. The members wish to engage the national network teams stronger in discussions, events etc. in order to offer them a space, where they can actively participate. This is a very important issue, namely the need to develop a strategy on how to engage effectively national network members. Moreover we need to identify new strategies to approach and mobilize new network members. Finally, the issue was raised that the activities (results of consultation with focus groups, joint actions, etc.) of the RISE network should have been disseminated on a broader scale, which leads to the conclusion that we need to develop a new communication strategy to promote the RISE network as well as enlarge the awareness of refugees’ situation across Europe from the perspective of refugees themselves.
Identifying network members RISE started with a first mapping of refugee-led organizations and refugee activists in Europe. 15 representatives of different refugee- and migrant-led organizations of several European countries from Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Italy, Austria, Hungary, UK, Malta, Greece and later also Portugal met in Brussels in September 2016 in order to build a steering committee of the project. In this meeting the representatives declared their strong interest to become member of the network. Each national contact point organized 2 rounds of consultation with focus groups. 2 workshop sessions During the 2 workshop sessions the network members had the great opportunity to exchange and learn from each other and the members started interconnecting to each other. The network members defined the vision and objectives of RISE and adjusted the methodology of the consultation with focus groups by focusing on 4 common issues that have been mentioned in all countries: accommodation, labor market, legal issues and integration. 4 working groups Based on these 4 topics we created four working groups, which developed concrete actions and are responsible for the implementation of the activities. The creation of the working groups is very crucial in order to strengthen the network members’ sense of ownership, fostering their commitment, engaging them in their field of expertise and creating a space to develop their capacities. Online campaigns RISE successfully implemented advocacy activities such as a short advocacy video (Refugees wishes : While Europe is preparing for holidays) reminding that many refugees are still living in tents, and a video promoting the vision of the network (“They cannot decide for our future without us). In the frame of the joint action day, an online Advocacy Campaign (One Europe, DIFFERENT POLICIES, UNEQUAL RIGHTS FOR REFUGEES) has been designed, produced and disseminated as well as a petition (STOP TRADING REFUGEES – END INHUMAN EUROPEAN MIGRATION DEALS). Joint Action Day The Joint Action Day has been organized on occasion of the first EU-Turkey deal anniversary. The group launched an event to present the RISE network, organized a poster action in front of the EU parliament to raise awareness on refugee situation and held a speech at the Human Rights Watch roundtable on the 1st anniversary of the EU-Turkey deal to declare its opinion on EU-deals, namely denouncing this inhuman deal by revealing their consequences for refugees, with a focus on gender issues. Within a short period of time the network developed great ideas and designed creative activities to advocate for decent living conditions for refugees and to promote a new narrative, where refugees hold an active role of partners in the society.
The first phase of RISE is based on conducting consultation with refugee focus groups. We chose this methodology because it is a good way to collect opinions and ideas of communities. In the frame of focus groups, participants can stimulate new thoughts and thus deepen and diversify the discussion. The consultation groups enabled the creation of space where refugees and asylum seekers had the rare opportunity to express their thoughts and ideas and had been taken seriously. In order to create a trustful und understanding environment for the participants, it was crucial that the national contact points, which conducted the focus groups, were refugees themselves. The created focus groups brought the opportunity to develop further initiatives undertaken by the participants themselves. At the workshops the network members had the chance to exchange the results of the conducted consultations among each other, aiming at the identification both of different and common issues refugees are facing in Europe. Based on the ideas for problem solutions suggested by focus groups, the network members designed joint actions and assigned people to implement the activities at national and European level. The methodology of holding focus groups ensures that the voices’ of refugees are heard. All the actions designed by the network members are based on the ideas of the focus groups, which legitimize the undertaken actions and give the RISE network the added value as representative of the authentic voice of refugees.
Spogmy Jabarkhil Shortly after the first workshop in Athens in November 2016, one of the network members, Spogmy Jabarkhil, created her own organization of refugee women in Norway (name of the organization: Qvinnan). She explained us that the ideas and inputs she gained from the consultations with refugee focus groups and during the exchange with network members at the workshop as well as inputs from the coordination team inspired her to establish her own organization. She recognized the need for such an initiative in Norway. Based on the inputs she gained during the first months in the RISE network she felt empowered and strong enough to initiate the first steps towards creating her own organization. Spogmy received support and cooperated with a RISE network member from Denmark that just recently established herself her own organization (Women Refugee Route).
Mina Jaf The organization Women Refugee Route from Denmark was created in 2016 by Mina Jaf. During her volunteer service in Greece in 2016 she identified – among many other things – the huge lack of female interpreters. Thus, she came up with the idea of establishing an organization, which provides capacity building training for female interpreters and volunteers working with female refugees. GFR helped Women Refugee Route to establish contacts with different organizations and communities in Athens in order to do identify potential partners, to assess the needs of female refugees and to search for participants for their planned seminar/workshops. In February 2017 the first seminar took place in Athens with a successful outcome. The next workshop training will be held in 27-28 May 2017.
Najib Obaid BABAKERKHAIL Through the consultation with focus groups the French national network team (headed by Najib Obaid Babakerkhail) created a "Refugee Info Point" for newly arrived Refugees and asylum seekers. The Refugee Info Point prepared a comprehensible and complete manual on Asylum Procedure in France and nominated 10 volunteers for informing refugees about the asylum procedure based on their different language skills. These volunteers have been provided with phone numbers, which were distributed among refugee communities all over France. Refugees that need information regarding their asylum procedure can call these volunteers and receive adequate information.
Individual activist Reshad Jalali is one of the most engaged and committed members of the network. Actually in the asylum process, he is not authorized to leave Belgium and unfortunately could not attend the workshops in Athens. But we were communicating on a regular base on skype and he was always eager to learn about the discussions and their outcomes of the workshops. He did a study on accommodation condition for refugees in different countries in Europe and GFR provided him with information regarding the accommodation conditions in Greece. He is member of the working group accommodation and will contribute significantly to planned activities of this working group.
Masooma Torfa Individual activist student Masooma is the person that functions as national contact point of Germany. During the entire project, Masooma showed great interest in the concept of RISE and was from the beginning very actively engaged and fully participating in network’s internal communication. She was very creative in raising new ideas and designing actions and wanted to overtake responsibility within the network. Masooma was one of the active members pushing for the creation of working groups in order to foster the ownership of the network members. She directly took the lead of the working group labor market, where she designed an online survey (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdDpX--TtRsbHHE8lpGfUjK4P4tqQ4HHRntsQc1_qMpCmbEIA/viewform?c=0&w;=1) that aims at creating a database to assess refugees’ skills and to match the skills with the demands of the labor market. As coordinator of the working group she coordinates the activities of the group, delegates tasks to the group members, developed an action plan (with timeline) and reports to the GFR coordination team.
Discussions and policies on relocation, reception, inclusion, or return are ongoing at the national and EU level and policies are proposed based on these discussions. Decisions for applying these policies are taken, which directly affect the life of refugees, migrants and host societies and will do it also in the future, but their voices remain unheard.
RISE intends to create a basis for a network of refugee and migrant groups across Europe that share dedication to engage with migration and social cohesion and advocate for them at national and EU level. In one year’s time, the involved refugee and migrant groups will have much knowledge on refugee issues all over Europe, will be able to produce recommendations, and actively promote them by participating in diverse fora. In the long run, refugee and migrant groups will be proactive partners, whose voice and proposed solutions will be taken into account.
RISE will process through three phases: 1 Consultation with refugee/migrant groups on a number of common issues and possible solutions; 2 Workshops with group representatives to elaborate recommendations and communication with people involved in the development of solutions for newcomers. 3 Recommendations dissemination and active participation of the group in several fora (EU and regional meetings, hubs, citizen platforms). Beneficiaries are refugees and migrants, whose input will be included in policies that affect their lives; local communities and the EU as a whole will benefit from more inclusive policy making that takes into account those most affected by it, thus, generate more social cohesion.
For decades refugee and migrant organisations in Europe have served as bridges between new arrivals and their host societies. Groups such as the Afghan community in Athens provide refugees and migrants with shelter, organise access to medical care, and offer support in times of personal tragedy. Despite the crucial role they play, the voices of refugee and migrant communities are largely unheard in policy discussions. “RISE” seeks to change this by empowering 10 refugee and migrant organisations from across Europe with a deeper understanding of the national and European Union policies which affect their communities. Through consultations and stakeholder workshops aimed at generating policy recommendations, RISE will demonstrate the potential of refugee and migrant organisations as knowledgeable and experienced partners.