PIER – Protection, Integration and Education for Refugees in Greece and Austria
The PIER Program supports cultural and socio-economic integration of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in Greece and Austria. It encompasses different types of assistance aiming at their improved protection, education and integration, with particular focus on helping children, youth and young adults.
In Greece the program is implemented in Thessaloniki by ARSIS Association for the Social Support of Youth. Within PIER III services and activities, such as psychosocial and psycho-logical support and referrals and escorts to other services are offered to adult beneficiaries who have been victims of torture. The main target of this support is that beneficiaries are being able to cope in the best way possible with the terrible things they witnessed and experience and further support their integration into the Greek society on the long run.
In Austria, nine Lerncafés provide after school support and leisure time activities for school aged children. The Lerncafés assist children from migrant and refugee families to improve their German language skills and provide support in other school subjects, both during the school year and within the summer program. Through additional leisure time activities, workshops and excursions, children learn to improve their social skills, to work and play in a team and to respect each other. In addition, children’s’ parents receive information about social and legal counselling measures.
Until February 2019 the PIER Program was also implemented in Italy by Caritas Italiana und Consortio Communitas. In Italy, young refugees and migrants were accommodated in Caritas reception centers and supported in using the opportunities given by modern technology to facilitate their integration process and become more independent and active members of their local communities. Using tablets and educational software provided within the PIER Program, specially trained staff offered Italian language and citizenship courses to the beneficiaries. Additionally the equipment was used to assist beneficiaries in improving their IT skills, job seeking online, finding information on educational opportunities, state institutions, NGOs and other support networks. During PIER I Caritas Italian further supported the search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea through the “Warm Up” initiative, providing dry clothing and shoes to be distributed promptly to rescued migrants at risk of hypothermia. In total Caritas Italian offered support to more than 11,800 beneficiaries during PIER I (1/1/2017-3/31/2018) and PIER II (2/1/2018-2/28/2019).
All PIER activities are implemented with strong involvement of dedicated volunteers, who offer their time, enthusiasm and skills and act as tutors, teachers, companions and often also as role models. All the projects are embedded within the context of local communities and are implemented in cooperation with other NGOs, local authorities, schools, social workers, etc.
The PIER Program is implemented with the support of The Coca-Cola Foundation since January 2017. Because of its successes in the first two years of implementation and the ongoing high demand for protection and integration measures in Greece and Austria the PIER Program is prolonged until August 2020 as the PIER III Program.