Greece’s child refugees are at risk of becoming a ‘lost generation.’
Is education the answer?
By Hayley Roth and Iris Samuels
ATHENS, Greece –– Two young boys with skinny frames, buzzed hair and bright t-shirts jostled beneath the hot Greek sun. But as humanitarian workers approached, it became clear the children weren’t playing.
One, originally from Afghanistan, jabbed his finger at the other and yelled, “Kurdish, no good, no good!”
“They started getting aggressive,” recalled Sultan Ozcan of the aid organization Save the Children, who witnessed the scene at a refugee camp in the Greek village of Oinofyta. “They don’t know what is right and what is wrong.”
She places much of the blame for that and similar incidents played out across Greece on a lack of formal education, and the absence of the social cohesiveness nurtured by group learning activities. That vacuum in education is a looming challenge that threatens to set a generation adrift, according to interviews conducted across Greece with top government officials, academics, aid workers and refugees.
Since the escalation of the Syrian civil war early last year and a rise in violence throughout the Middle East, more than 1 million people have fled to Greece, their gateway to the European Union. Most migrants considered the debt-ridden Hellenic Republic as just their first step in a long journey north — not a destination for families looking to rebuild their lives.
But earlier this year, Europe closed its internal borders to undocumented migrants, effectively stranding 60,000 inside Greece. Some now are beginning to realize that they may be here for a very long time – if not the rest of their lives.