Honors for an Afghani Migrant II – Education challenges for refugees in Greece

Last year in August we reported on Chalkboard with the article “Honors for an Afghani Migrant – An Afghani asylum seeker excels in Greek national University entry exams”[1], when Thessaloniki Mayor presented Vahit Fasil with an award from the city, honoring refugees during 2013 World Refugee Day.

“Education has been my compass throughout life, and my travel from Afghanistan to Greece”, said Vahit. This August, his best friend, Hamid Hasani, in the short documentary Refugee Lifelines[2], produced by Symβiosis this June, wonders if Europe really wants those fleeing war and atrocities, those who struggled hard to study and be integrated.

Hamid Hasani Image courtesy of Symbiosis.

Hamid Hasani
Image courtesy of Symbiosis.

The school years were not easy. He got up every morning at 5:30 to go to work, finished at 16.00 and left for evening school from 19.00 until 23.00.Tutorials were impossible. The first thing he did when he heard the news of entering University was to phone his mum in Afghanistan. He has not seen her since he was 14 years old, like the rest of his family, his father and two younger siblings. Being Hazara they lived under the constant threat of the Taliban, until one day they tried to run over Hamid with a car. “They hit me in the leg only, but my parents were very afraid for my life, so I was sent to Iran,” recalls Hamid. “At first I cried. I missed my family. Ached too much being on my own.” When things got tough there too, Hamid took the road to Europe.

Until 2nd of August 2014 almost 6,000 people watched Hamid’s story on the web, as the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR in Greece shared his case on their website[3]. “How did I enter university with only four years in Greece? I really wanted it. I had set it as my purpose. Not to get a job or to make money. I wanted an education to know better myself and my life.” This was the secret of success for the 25 year old Hamid, now a resident of Thessaloniki, recognized refugee and third-year student in the Department of Business Administration at the University. He also participates in Symβiosis weekly radio show “Diversity on the radio”[4], while laboring on scaffoldings to earn a living.

The current situation in Greece, as the latest court decision[5] on the Manolada strawberry fields’ violence indicates, is dire as regards rights. Migrants, asylum seekers, Romas, LGBT, and many more vulnerable communities are at risk. Increasing discrimination and racism is part of the crisis in Greece and a threat to democracy in the country. Racist violence has increased dramatically and minorities and other vulnerable groups are facing social exclusion and multiple discrimination. The severity of the problem has expanded with the onslaught of the economic crisis, with the elected members of the party of the extreme right proclaiming Greece at war with immigrants. International and national human rights organizations have expressed concern about the situation.

The Greek education system is characterized by similar features of racism and discrimination to those that prevail in many aspects of social life in the country. Challenges concern the legislative framework, racist practices by teachers, racist behavior by parents or students. There has been a particular surge in the last few years, directly linked to the rise of the Golden Dawn, a party with a declared racist educational program, as well as to the adoption by the government and the media of a manifestly xenophobic agenda.[6]

This article was originally published by Symbiosis.


[1] http://chalkboard.tol.org/an-afghani-asylum-seeker-excels-in-greek-national-university-entry-exam

[2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4D68e-C04g

[3]  http://www.unhcr.gr/refugeestories/hamid/

[4] http://www.symbiosis.org.gr/en/radio-sym%CE%B2iosis

[5] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/31/greek-court-acquits-farmers-shot-strawberry-pickers

[6] https://www.facebook.com/SymbiosisOrg, Forthcoming SelectRespect Campaign report on Racism in Greece, http://selectrespect.org/


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