In the “Welcome Room”, interested people receive information about YSC services and have the possibility to talk individually to a social worker. Depending on their individual needs they receive in-house services or are referred to other institutions. The activities provided by the YSC help young people to strengthen their coping mechanisms for dealing with mental pressure, daily challenges and support them in their integration process. They also have the opportunity to create their own CV and search for jobs on the employment market.
Legal and Psychosocial Counseling
In the Youth Support Center in Thessaloniki, professional social workers, psychologists and lawyers offer legal and psychosocial counselling to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. Depending on their individual needs, the beneficiaries receive counselling on an ad-hoc basis, individual in-depth counselling or attend group counselling sessions. Many refugees and migrants are severely traumatized by the experiences they made in their countries of origin or during their dangerous and mostly long flight to Greece. The most common issues of refugees in need of psychosocial support are sleeping and anxiety disorders, trauma- and stress-related disorders as well as depression and adaption difficulties. It is essential to address these issues in order to help them stabilize and be ready for education and work.
As the provisions on the right of asylum are extremely complicated and most of those seeking asylum come from completely different cultural and legal systems, it is particularly important to inform them about their possibilities, rights and obligations. The sessions of legal group counseling are offered once per week by a child protection lawyer. The lawyer collaborates with different actors in the YSC in order to provide these sessions. In addition to group sessions, refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and the local community receive legal counseling on an individual basis. Other important tasks of the legal experts are to liaise with state authorities and advocate for advanced asylum and integration policies in Greece in general.
Educational activities in Youth Support Centers play a key role at the YSC. Most of the minor refugees coming to the Youth Support Centers have been out of school for a long time. Some of them never attended a school in their entire life. While the registration for formal education is supported by the YSC, additional relevant and needs-based education activities have been elaborated and are open for all interested young people coming to the centers. In the YSC, 20 different educational activities are offered per week focusing on language learning (English and Greek), basic numeracy as well as literacy.
Leisure time and recreational activities
The Youth Support Center has elaborated a comprehensive program including activities for recreation, developing life-skills and learning more about the host community´s culture. In order to help the integration process of the refugees, young local community members are involved in all activities. Among others, the following activities are offered: sport activities; city sight-seeing; visits to museums or libraries; themed workshops, such as recycling and waste management; arts and handicrafts; technical workshops; competitions like “Reading Games” and many more.
Many challenges regarding housing services have been faced during the implementation of the first phase of the PIER Program in 2017. Vulnerable families in need of emergency housing and shelter services or in very bad health conditions were detected on the streets. Also, young adults over 18 years – who can’t continue to be in the residence shelter for unaccompanied minors any more – but are still vulnerable, have to be supported with housing emergency services. Therefore ARSIS runs two flats for the provision of housing emergency services for this target group.
The Youth Support Center in Thessaloniki is supported by volunteers (of different ages), which is a good example of community involvement in the integration process of refugees and migrants. The volunteers are engaged in the following activities:
- Collection and distribution of in-kind donations
- Education and recreational activities
- Visibility activities
The YSCs are supported by volunteers as a community involvement in the refugees’ and migrants’ integration process. The volunteer team consists of people of all ages and from different backgrounds. They are involved in all activities and services offered at the YSC; providing assistance to the social service by welcoming the beneficiaries in the facility and informing them about the program, the activities and the amenities of the YSC, tutoring minors, translating and accompanying families to other structures of ARSIS. The volunteers receive regular support from ARSIS staff and take part in human rights trainings offered by ARSIS and using educational tools developed by the European Counsil (Compass and Compasito).