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NonprofitIamA American volunteer at a refugee camp in Greece for mostly Syrians. AMA!

Mar 1st 2017 by qwilson5 • 23 Questions • 121 Points

My short bio: Quinn - 27male, live in Chicago, filmmaker. Just got back from spending weeks volunteering at Ritsona Refugee camp on mainland greece. About 750 residents of all ages/genders. Mostly Kurdish Sryian's but people from all over the world.

My Proof: www.facebook.com/echo100plus I volunteered with Echo 100 Plus - you can see me tagged in their most recent facebook post on their page announcing this AMA

Q:

What types of refugee people did you come across? What type of skills did they have that can be used in European/American society?

A:

Mostly Kurdish people from Syria, but there were folks from many african nations and other middle easy countries.

Oh man, everything! They are just like western societies, there were barbers and coaches, and entrepreneurs and chefs and doctors and famers and everything, they'll be fine wherever they end up. Many had great english or other languages.


Q:

Can we call them economic migrants and not refugees?

A:

Well its case by case I suppose. Some might be economic migrants that were using this global turmoil as an opportunity to seek out a better quality of life elsewhere.

BUT there were also many many who fit the UN definition of a refugee 'someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.' - that is from the UN's website.


Q:

Can we? Yes. Should we?

A:

yea thats really the question, does it weaken people empathy towards them? Or does it seem like they just want more money or something? I called them residents when I was at the camp with them.


Q:

Do you believe the Greek government should provide housing and public services for economic migrants and refugees coming to Greece? If so, do you believe that Greece should raise taxes to pay for this or should they cut the budget in other areas?

A:

So whats happening now (to the best of my knowledge) is that the EU is paying lots of money to Greece so they (military) can provide food and some basic resources for folks (though the Red Cross/Crescent provide the housing at the camp I was at). Most refugees form the middle east make it to greece, some to Italy and they have to stay there while they are processed (months to year(s). Again, this problem will only be solved by the GLOBAL community, it can't all be on one country, esp. one as economically depressed as greece. I felt some sentiment from some of the greek people that negative towards the refugees b/c they felt like, life was not so great for them in greece, why would they support others. But that's the problem, the problem, is when you divide YOU from THEM. US and THOSE. We are all brothers and sisters of the same planet, if one of us suffers we all suffer. We've got to care for each other and help us each have our basic needs met, once people are safe, healthy, and housed, we can start to have different economic levels but not until then in my view.

So long story short, greece is not paying for them, the EU is, greece is actually likely skimming money from the pot that is supposed to help them.


Q:

People usually cite cultural differences as one of the main points against taking in refugees.

1)Have you noticed any major cultural differences?

2)Did you have a chance to discuss integration with some of the refugees?

A:

Hey!

1) For sure, many many people spoke great english or other language, they were on their smart phones as much as we were, joked around etc. etc. Very similar. Of course most are coming from an muslim communities, so there was a bit more difference in traditional gender roles that what I'm seeing in Chicago. Then of course some slightly different food (all amazing) and things like that, but really not a ton different from what I saw.

2) ya! Most I am close with were eager to get to a new place to call home and get their life going. Broadly, people I've spoken in the west seem to have this larger sense of losing their 'culture' - they seem to want people from other countries to watch the same sports, the eat the same food. It seems to me like those feelings are really more a mask for being uncomfortable with someone that seems different, seems 'other'. Change is scary for a lot of people, esp adults and I'd guess that is most people really dug down on the questions of integration they'd see more of a reflection of deeper seeded personal issues than being worried of seeing more hijabs on the street. America has vilified Islam, we've seen terrorist in movies, and pun-dents screaming about 'radical islam' to bring us together over a common enemy. BUt seriously, they are just people like anyone else, go meet a few and hang out. 99% the same.


Q:

Thanks!

A:

:)


Q:

How did you get involved with Echo 100 Plus? How were the other volunteers that you were working with?

A:

Real simple! Go to link below, fill out forms, send in some documents and do a skype interview, if they can accept you its just a matter of schedule and room in the house to volunteers stay in.

It was a WONDERFUL experience. I made some great friends who I feel like I've know for years. It truly was a blast, we'd cook for each other and hang out and go out to restaurants for people last nights with the NGO. Just a blast.

http://echo100plus.com/en/get-involved


Q:

What's the overall atmosphere like within the refugee camp? By that i mean the people's moods on their current living situation other than how they feel about what's been happening at home.

A:

hmm two sides to the coin. 1 side, people are happy to be away from a potential violent/unsafe circumstance but at the same time they are basically living in this wall-less jail. Someone else is deciding if/when they get to leave and start a life somewhere else (usually take 10-12 months to leave the camp - and you don't know where you're going until like two weeks before you leave), you pick up 'food' two times a day from a warehouse in little plastic bags, you don't have much to occupy your time. Some folks don't want to learn another language like english or German if they may end up in Spain.

BUT all that said, they mostly have a good community. Friends and family, sip tea, cook together, joke around. Overall I'd say its a positive vibe moment to moment, but in the back of peoples minds are the facts that they have no idea what their future will be....


Q:

Do you believe there's a limit to the number of economic migrants and refugees these countries should accept? If so how should that number be determined?

A:

hmmm. Me personally, I believe open boarders and welcoming/ supportive of Refugees is the right move. If we really want to create unity among human-kind, if we really want world peace, if we really want to care for each other, (if you're religious and you want to build the kingdom of heaven on earth) it can't be based on where we were born of who we pay taxes too. It can ONLY be because we are all humans. Going there confirmed all that for me, people were wonderful. Better people that a lot of my neighbors now.

Okay that said. I hear the practical arguments on both sides. I think the difference is in REFUGEE's and migrants. If someone is escaping violence, every nation in the world should be open to accepting them, as I'd want to find a new safe home if my build was being bombed.

In terms of exact #'s I think we REALLY need the global community to take this seriously and have some real dialogue. If EVERY country were willing to take in refugee's the weight would be so spread out that I don't think most nations would even notice. The problem lies when countries build up walls and say no, making it harder for other countries to take refugees in, so they end up saying no, and it snowballs from there. I'm very dissapointed in the global communities efforts here.

Bottom line: If hundreds of nations took is X number of people based on the population size of their country that would seem fair to me.


Q:

Your idea sounds awesome in theory, but it ignores reality. There are very evil, sick people in the world. Its like the idea of not lcking your doors at night. Sounds all nice and happy in theory, but it could get you killed. Your whole theory is based off something that has never and will never happen in the human race. An open door policy worldwide is something so naive, it almost screams being misinformed. There is absolutely zero evidence that what you want or believe has ever worked, or will ever work.

A:

I hear you. It is more optimistic then possible right now. There is a lot of hate in the world, the only thing that can defeat that is love. Kill them with kindness. Which yes, will lead to good people being on the short of the stick. But taking a global/life-time-of-the-human-race type look. I believe its what we need to do. SO do we open the doors wide open right now? No, of course not. Is it the goal, the light at the end of the tunnel, absolutely. All we can do is make the small changes days by day that is in our power to make, and show everyone love and kindess and eventually we will build a global peaceful village. Not in our lifetime, but I'll be dammed if I'm not going to do what I can while I'm on this earth.


Q:

As i said in my other comment, alot of the time they can't just choose where to stay and get distributed to other countries because small and poorer countries like Greece or Lebanon can't take that many, and Lebanon already took a fuckton compared to their population. The big camps in those countries are also demonstrably underfounded.

But you're right, you can only take the long trip if you have the money to do so.

I can't speak for OP on his view about those who are reluctant to integrate, but you might be overestimating the effect on Countries with a strong economy.

A:

Great question. I wish I had a better answer for you, but it was not something I discussed with anyone. I imagine the feeling is there is turmoil in the whole area and if they want more of a feeling of being safe and a lower likelihood of being send back to their home country, then they'd want to get farther away, but a better question for them. Sorry!

Its a tough question and there is no easy answer. I'd maybe push back on hurting their economy long term? Most people I know had formal educations, trade skills and strong careers, I don't see how they would not be an asset to an economy. But seems to me worth getting some people abusing the system to help those truly in need. Seems like thats how most systems operate on all levels in all cultures. I understand some people feel differently. But watch the 'White Helmets' documentary. See what some people are going through, and think about the idea of closing the door on them, it just feels wrong in my gut.


Q:

A somewhat unimportant question -- Did the topic of movies or tv come up with refugees?? If so, what?

A:

yea! For sure did. Most people (15-35) watch American/western stuff that's blockbuster or huge, but also lots of Syrian TV or tv in local languages. Comedies are always popular as are big action/adventure, same as here.


Q:

Do they educate their children? If yes, is it good quality?

A:

Not 100% sure what the context of the questions is but here is what I got.

Yes, of course, everyone wants to educate their children. In their home countries that was happening.

At the camp - the children roughly 5-12 go to greek schools in the afternoon for a few hours and our taught normal lessons in greek (which is a nice gesture but kinda pointless as no one speaks greek...). A the the camp there are many NGO's like 'I AM YOU' that focuses on education of all youth ages, mostly in languages etc. Most people can't wait to get settled somewhere to start their schooling back up. So overall quality, not sufficient, not what people want, but everyone is doing their best with the resources they have.


Q:

Seeing the current economical situation in greece, how many of the refugee you think will get job/work after completing education?

A:

well most refugees will not end up in Greece, they will end up spread out all over the world. I think their shot of getting work is just as high as anyone else. Again, most have trade skills or strong careers, there were doctors, barbers, chefs, entrepreneurs, all kinds of stuff.


Q:

Hey man, really good for you, I did a few weekends volunteering in Berlin. How are you getting by board and food wise? Not to take the topic off the refugees just wondering how you got into it and where it's going.

A:

Hey! Thanks, I'm back in chicago now. But Echo 100 Plus (ngo I was with) has a big house they rent in a town 15 minutes away and a few rental cars for transpo. Food, we are on our own, but sometimes ate the leftovers the residents didn't want for lunch and dinner usually someone cooked or we went out. Food was very affordable.


Q:

Are there children without parents that you have run into? What are some sad stories you can share.

A:

Didn't find a lot of 'children' with our parents, quiet a few teens there with out their parents. Not sure I love the idea of kinda making spectacle out tragedy on this board given some of the responses I've seen so far from people. Would be happy to share some things one on one maybe. But also don't have a ton of stories as we were more focused on the present and the future than the past. But many people came from sad circumstances for sure.


Q:

Please answer asap I have fly fishing lessons in 25 minutes.

A:

solid bits, appreciate the care.


Q:

Do they just think all Americans are awful because of what's been going on lately? Or is that something they don't pay much attention to or realize that the US is being run by a psychopath and not every American is like that?

A:

Not at all. Most people at the camp have lots of one-on-one experience of America who come over to volunteer and are nice and their friends so they prob think we are nicer than we are haha. But certainly most don't like our government and think many of us are backwards. But American's like anywhere, has good people and bad people, they understand that.


Q:

That escalated quickly

A:

pull on collar


Q:

It's fine and dandy if you want to risk your life helping these violent and troublesome people, but do you believe we should bring this violence, rape and hate into western society like Hillary planned? How can you justify this given the clear evidence of how badly this has worked out for Europe?

A:

Curt question here. Can you show me some evidence of your assertions? And how many people from this region do you know or have spoken with? Yes absolutely they are coming from really troubled areas with war and chaos, but the people I met wanted to get out of those situations. I do do think we should help them, it seems to be a moral imperative regaurdless you are religious or not (if you are WWJD?).

Ever person I met was not violent, not criminal, not hateful. If anything they are victims of those things and victims of hate from many westerns who accuse them of being horrible things that they are not.


Q:

It's fine and dandy if you want to risk your life helping these violent and troublesome people, but do you believe we should bring this violence, rape and hate into western society like Hillary planned? How can you justify this given the clear evidence of how badly this has worked out for Europe?

A:

It's a lot of scare tactics and lot of hate. They want to live peaceful lives away from violence, which is what I imagine you or I would want to do if the roles were reversed....


Q:

Look at Europe. I'm not going to waste my time gathering up evidence that you claim is not there, when these are current events. It's like arguing with someone who says "prove to me Donald Trump won the election"... no matter what you show them, they'll never be convinced. We are not imagining the mass rapes, terrorist attacks, violent crime, hatecrimes and rise of Sharia Law that is plaguing Europe. This is America. We will not allow this savagery here. You are trying to swindle your way out of this. I don't know why, but political correctness and diversity agendas have brainwashed our society to bend over backwards for people that will ultimately destroy us. Like I said, it's your choice to help them, but I have a right to refuse to bring in the dangers of Islam and their culture in order to protect my family.

A:

umm, he deff won the election, the got the electoral votes, not arguing at all there.

Okay I hear you, show me Europe. what signals do you have that Shaira law is rising there? can you show me a single example of a 'mass rape' in europe? I'm unaware of any. Terrorist attacks, yes there have been some in Europe and they are tragic. There have been sooooo many more in the countries these refugees are fleeing. They want to live in peace, they want to raise their families, and cook meals together, and drink tea and play games, and live in a place where they are safe. I really encourage to imagine if the roles were reversed and you lived in a place where bombs were being dropped on your neighbors. And you went to another country and knocked on the door and said, 'please let me in, I don't want to die' - what would you hope you heard in response?

In terms of hate crimes, yea, there are a lot of those. PLenty here, plenty from white nationalist that don't want anyone in this country that doesn't look/act/think like they do. So we are allowing that savagery here.

What do you feel like dangers of Islam are? Do you feel there is a difference between Islam and radical Islam? Do you feel there is a different between Christianity and radical Christianity?


Q:

Where the fuck else are they supposed to go? Should they just lay and die under a fucked up regime brought about from Western domination, sham governments and war manipulation to serve God knows what political needs?!? Easy to judge entire cultures and races from a comfy room and an internet cable.

A:

A men