When you hear about Greece in the news today, you probably picture economic turmoil, street protests, and instability in the European Union (EU). Or you might picture Greece’s ancient ruins and the Aegean sunshine and blue waters of the beautiful Greek islands. Yet, there is another side to Greece that most people don’t hear about in the news.
Greece is home to refugees from more than 15 Muslim nations who come with the goal of reaching richer EU countries. Many estimate that almost 80 percent of all refugee or illegal immigrants in the EU enter through Greece. They come for reasons including religious persecution, war, or economic and political unrest in their homeland.
What they find in Greece is a whole other problem. They immediately become stranded without proper documentation or visas. They have no money, no home, no family, no work, no support, and little hope for change. In August 2012, the Greek government began arresting single male refugees and placing them in detention camps. This crackdown by the police has also encouraged Greek gangs to randomly attack refugees, deriving their orders from the Golden Dawn, a leftist Nazi political party in Greece.
Life is challenging for the refugees. Many families are split apart as the father or the mother has gone ahead to Germany or England to attempt to find legal status. For housing, multiple families live together in small, run-down apartments. One apartment may have 25-plus people living there. Each adult usually pays five Euros a day to cover rent, utilities, and one meal. There are numerous stories of hardship, and the needs are overwhelming.
It is easy to be discouraged by the heartache, suffering, and difficulty faced by countless refugees and their children, yet there is hope. Hellenic Ministries has been working among Greek people and the refugee population since the 1980s. In March 2011, a TEAM France missionary met with Hellenic Ministries while traveling in Greece to evaluate ministry opportunities there. After a week in Greece, the TEAM missionary sensed the Lord was making a change in his life and calling his family from France to Greece, specifically to help the Muslim refugee population. He is answering that call and will start a partnership between TEAM and Hellenic Ministries in Greece. The family will serve and connect with refugees through providing meals, clothes, showers, and other services. Providing humanitarian aid opens the door to share the love and hope of the Lord with many people who have never heard the message before.
-Written by TEAM missionary
-Photos provided by TEAM missionary