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Welcome Service/Welcome Room

© Natalia Tsoukala, Caritas

The Youth Support Centres (Safe Houses; in short: YSC) in Thessaloniki and Athens are safe places where young refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and their families get access to information, legal and psychosocial counselling and educational support. The YSC builds on vast experience from more than 20 years in the field.

In the “Welcome Room” interested people receive information about the services of the YSC 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 will help the young refugees to strengthen their coping mechanisms for dealing with mental pressure, daily challenges and support them in their integration process. Each YSC is visited by approximately 150 refugees, asylum seekers and migrants a day. Some of them visit the center daily, others only a few times. It is expected that circa 1,200 refugees will benefit from the YSCs within one year.

Legal and Psychosocial Counselling

In the Youth Support Centers in Thessaloniki and Athens professional social workers, psychologists and lawyers offer legal and psychosocial counselling to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. Depending on individual needs beneficiaries will get counselling on an ad-hoc basis or they agree on frequent individual or group sessions. 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 of their possibilities, rights and obligations. Equally important is the access to psychosocial support in the YSC, where they feel safe and are able to regain trust in themselves and their new surrounding system – an especially important factor for people who may come from countries were the authorities are corrupt and cannot be trusted.

Stationary and Mobile Educational Activities

  • Educational activities in Youth Support Centers Most of the minor refugees coming to the Youth Support Centers have been out of school for a long time. While the registration for formal education is supported by the YSC, additional relevant and needs-based education activities have been elaborated and will be open for all interested young people coming to the centers. In each center 20 different educational activities are offered per week focusing on language learning (English and Greek), basic numeracy as well as literacy. Up to 15 people can participate in one activity.
  • Mobile classrooms in refugee camps In the areas of Thessaloniki and Athens many refugee camps have been established and children living there rarely have access to any educational activities. Therefore, mobile schools will go to two pre-selected refugee camps twice a week. Once a week they will al-so visit the city center streets of varying neighborhoods. In order to reduce the barriers to participate in the services offered, classes are held on open grounds. Each daily session (class) lasts three hours and is attended by up to 50 children. The studied topics are chosen according to the age of the children attending the sessions as well as their needs and interests.

Leisure Time Activities

Each Youth Support Centre 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. It is envisaged that 25 % of the local community participates. In each Youth Support Centre up to 20 different activities per week are offered.
Among others, the following activities are offered: sport activities; city sight-seeing; visits to museums, libraries, cinemas; themed work-shops, such as recycling and waste management; arts and handicrafts; technical workshops; competitions like “Reading Games”; etc.

Support by Volunteers

The Youth Support Centers in Thessaloniki and Athens are supported by volunteers who engage in the following activities:

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