Refugees tu­tored on new life in Europe

EU coun­tries in­tro­duce their cul­tures

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

ATHENS: At a Por­tuguese em­bassy brief­ing for Syr­ian and Iraqi refugees fly­ing out the next morn­ing from Athens, a young man wants to know how many cig­a­rette car­tons he can pack, while an el­derly woman asks who will care for her once she lands. About a dozen refugees are at the in­for­ma­tion ses­sion which Por­tu­gal, like other EU coun­tries, is of­fer­ing as part of the ef­fort to re­lo­cate them through­out the bloc and help Greece, at Europe’s doorstep, cope with a mas­sive in­flux of des­per­ate peo­ple flee­ing war and poverty.

A cul­tural ori­en­ta­tion of­fi­cer from the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion (IOM), which is as­sist­ing the Euro­pean em­bassies, fields the refugees’ ques­tions and gives ad­vice like not pack­ing cook­ing gas can­is­ters in lug­gage as that “can re­ally de­lay flights”. “They tell me it’s good in Por­tu­gal, the peo­ple are good,” says Osama Jasm, a 26-year-old from Da­m­as­cus, who ad­mits it was his fifth choice for a re­lo­ca­tion des­ti­na­tion as his par­ents, four brothers and three sis­ters are in Ger­many. But the for­mer law stu­dent is hop­ing to make the best of the sit­u­a­tion in Lis­bon. “Maybe I can con­tinue my stud­ies,” he tells AFP.

Por­tu­gal along with France, the Nether­lands and Fin­land have ac­cepted over 3,500 refugees out of some 5,400 that have so far been re­lo­cated from Greece through­out EU states. The bloc had agreed last year to aid Greece as well as Italy af­ter over a mil­lion refugees and mi­grants ar­rived on their shores in Europe’s biggest mi­gra­tion surge since World War II. The move was also de­signed to dis­suade il­le­gal mi­gra­tion, which comes at deadly risk and helps en­rich smug­gling net­works.

“We want to tackle hu­man smug­gling by of­fer­ing a le­gal in­stru­ment like re­lo­ca­tion,” ex­plains An­dre Baas, project leader for re­set­tle­ment at the Dutch asy­lum seek­ers’ re­cep­tion agency COA. Once in their new des­ti­na­tion, refugees will be given ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to in­te­grate, says the Por­tuguese am­bas­sador to Greece Rui Tereno. “They will find peo­ple of many shapes and col­ors... they will not stand out,” he says. “The chal­lenge is to pro­vide them with in­for­ma­tion that gives psy­cho­log­i­cal as­sur­ance that they will be wel­come and safe and in­te­grated,” Tereno adds.

A First Look

The EU coun­tries wel­com­ing the refugees have come up with var­i­ous ways to in­tro­duce them to their cul­tures. At an Athens ho­tel, Huda, a 23-year-old Syr­ian from Da­m­as­cus, is elated to get her first look at France - im­ages of Chartres cathe­dral, brie cheese and fa­mous 16th cen­tury ex­pa­tri­ate Leonardo Da Vinci. “It’s re­ally well or­ga­nized,” she says beam­ing at a re­cent cul­tural ses­sion or­ga­nized by the French em­bassy for 100 Syr­i­ans and Eritre­ans, whose re­lo­ca­tion got the green­light af­ter long de­lays. “We want them to feel that they are be­ing cared for. That way, they will be even more ea­ger to go to France,” says Clelia Sey­nave, a teacher at the French In­sti­tute in the Greek cap­i­tal.

The Dutch are of­fer­ing a 2.5-day ori­en­ta­tion course at their Athens em­bassy that in­cludes a quick lan­guage les­son and tele­vised mes­sages from for­mer refugees al­ready in the Nether­lands. And the Por­tuguese have pre­pared a wel­come kit con­tain­ing a free phonecard, a glos­sary, some quick facts on life and rights in Por­tu­gal, and a T-shirt with sym­bols that will en­able even those who only speak their mother tongue to get direc­tions to a pay­phone, a bank or a restau­rant.

ATHENS: Refugees, who are to be re­lo­cated to Por­tu­gal, at­tend an in­for­ma­tion ses­sion at the premises of the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion (IOM) on Nov 9, 2016.

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