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Service-Learning About Refugee Needs and Asylum Rights in Greece


On June 8, a group of twelve students arrived in Athens to learn about Greek civil society and how it has stepped up to empower, rehabilitate, and legally support recently arrived refugees. Morningside partners with the Hellenic Education and Research Centre (HERC) to provide this learning trip. The schedule began with lectures on Greek histories of internal and external migration, the development of Greek and European refugee law, and modern Greek language. HERC is very experienced in organizing educational programming and excavations that focus on ancient Greek history. Founder Andronike Makres convincingly explained how education about contemporary Greek society and refugee issues can be situated within the “decolonization of classical education”, by teaching the paths from heritage to contemporary societal structures and issues, rather than isolating the past as an idealized Greek phenotype.


After the orienting activities, students visited service organizations in Athens and on the island of Lesvos. At Zaatar NGO, they were briefed by co-founder Marina Liakis on the experience of training and employing refugees in the restaurant Tastes of Damascus, and helping them integrate into life in Athens. Students learnt about the Failte Centre’s individually tailored education and psychological counselling efforts in the working-class Metaxourgeio neighborhood, and the non-hierarchical collective KHORA that provides free clothing, food, asylum application support, and work and art spaces to those in need. After a final Athens visit to a social ‘polyclinic’ run by Doctors of the World, the group flew to Lesvos island, where a representative of the same organization provided a tour the next day of a refugee camp in Mavravouni. The tour covered administrative offices, healthcare and educational facilities, and residential tents within the camp. This provoked much discussion among the students about their privilege in being able to visit such a space, and how they could direct such an experience towards ethical and constructive ends. On their final day in Lesvos, students met lawyers at Fenix, a legal aid NGO supporting asylum applicants and protecting refugee rights, to hear their knowledgeable insights about refugees’ lives and human rights within such camps.