Syrian refugees find safe haven but no secure future on Greek island

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Friday, July 27, 2018
Syrian refugees find safe haven but no secure future on Greek island

By Isabelle Gerretsen | Reuters | 27 July 2018

TILOS, Greece (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - On a balmy summer evening, Abdulkader Hamo smiled as he watched his young daughters dance in a school performance on the tiny Greek island of Tilos, far from their home in northern Syria.

With some 850 km (528 miles) separating them from the trauma of Syria’s war, the girls laughed and played with their new classmates. Back in Afrin, they would cry every day because of the air strikes, said Hamo, while he and his wife faced discrimination because they are Kurdish. Last summer, they decided to flee Syria with their five children. “I wanted to keep them safe,” Hamo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “I didn’t want my children to experience the same life as I did.”

The family is one of five Syrian households living on Tilos as part of a resettlement scheme managed by Greek aid group Solidarity Now and the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR). Of the 60,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Greece, about 15,000 live on its islands, and a third of those are Syrian, according to the UNHCR. The project on Tilos is exploring how refugees can contribute to the wellbeing of small communities like islands.

Tilos’ residents have embraced the refugees, offering them food, shelter and work at their businesses during the summer. But a lack of jobs for the rest of the year is deterring refugees from settling there permanently, as they need more economic security to build a new life for their families. Read more >>>