PIER – Protection, Integration and Education for Refugees in Greece, Italy and Austria
Over one million refugees and migrants have made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in the past years. One in four of them were children. This constitutes one of the largest movements of displaced people across European borders since World War Two.
Armed conflict, war, terror, oppression, poverty and famine have dramatically increased the number of people forced to leave their home countries. They leave with the hope to find a safe place to live. A place where their lives and the lives of their children are not in immediate danger, where they are safe. They risk a lot by coming from the Middle East through Turkey or by crossing the Sahara desert, and then the Mediterranean Sea in makeshift vehicles. The “lucky ones” manage to reach the coasts of Italy or one of the many Greek islands like Chios, Samos or Lesvos.
In this situation, children, as always, are in particular need of special protection, psychosocial support and tailor-made education programs. They are deeply traumatized by witnessing the conflicts of their home country, by leaving their friends and family behind and by the things that happened to them on their way to Europe. Some of them lost their family on the way. Some of them have never visited a school in their whole life. They are threatened to become part of a lost generation, a generation with only very little perspective for a self-sustained and healthy life.
In order to build a good future for the majority population in the host countries as well as for the refugees and migrants, integration programs are key and have to start from the very beginning of being welcomed into the host country. After the basic needs of food and housing are covered, traumatized people have to be guided through the new and unknown language, society and culture. Only the contact to the majority population can prevent ghettoization and fight prejudices on both sides. Of course integration measures have to meet the needs of the respective target group. Adults will need different services than children. People who cannot read and write will need different offers than somebody who has a university degree. Therefore various integration measures and stratified programs are implemented to enhance successful integration within the PIER program. At the same time and in respect to their individual needs refugees, asylum seekers and migrants have to be sufficiently informed about the most suitable services available to them.
Therefore the PIER program is designed on three pillars:
Refugees, asylum seekers and migrants have increased access to relevant information, have strengthened their coping mechanism and experience improved psychosocial wellbeing.
Integration and Education
Refugee children and youth have strengthened social competences, experience success in school and gain better chances to find a job in the future.
Host-societies increasingly engage themselves for the acceptance and integration of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.
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