Migrants´ stories 2019 | International Organization for Migration

Migrants´ stories 2019

From Bangladesh to Great Britain


It was not a fun trip the one I had to make when I left my country. The crossing of five countries until I reached Greece made it a hard and dangerous journey. I do not wish to remember my past. I am Ιm and I come from Bangladesh which I left because I was in danger. Nevertheless, I love my homeland and, if the condition was different, I would never have left it. I adore my country and I show it through poems I write. You see, poetry is one of my hobbies and I exercise it.

The first Greek stop was Thessaloniki, then Athens and the streets of the capital until the moment I was transferred to IOM shelter for unaccompanied minors back in Thessaloniki.

I am here ever since and, although I just came of age and will be soon re-united with my sister who lives in the UK, I cannot but think how much love and support I received here. To me, IOM staff is my second family. Friendly people who were always there for me, ready to help me and give me some advice when necessary. At present, my most immediate dream is to continue my education and be able to study. Later, getting a job is part of my plans but there is nothing specific I want to do right now. First come the studies; since biology is my favorite subject, I will concentrate on studying this. Still, photography, literature and poetry are only few of the things that interest me.

Although at the moment it is out of the question, fingers crossed, in the future I will be able to return to Bangladesh and help other people in need, like for example the Rohingya who are fleeing (Republic of the Union of) Myanmar and reach my homeland seeking safety.







“When I paint, I feel like I am living in a world of my own. For me, art is a universal language, it allows no restrictions”.


"My first contact with painting was through my father who is also a painter. I had a good example to follow and I strongly believe that I am a natural, thanks to good genes. When I realized my love for painting, I started practicing a lot and now I can say that I am self-taught. In addition, I am currently taking painting classes, once or twice a week, to expand my knowledge and my skills.

My source of inspiration lies everywhere. I choose my themes from photographs, from people around me, from the nature that surrounds us. I love painting women’s faces, doing their portraits. Painting relaxes and refreshes me. I feel like I am living in a world of my own. For me, art is a universal language, it allows no restrictions. My favorite materials are pencil leads and aquarelle. The color that inspires and gives me positive energy is blue. Bob Ross, an American painter is someone I admire a lot, because he brought the art of painting to the public. He helped people understand the essence of painting. He would encourage everyone to try, to explore and unleash their potential. Along with painting landscapes and portraits, I also design sketches of buildings or places where people live. Painting will accompany me for a lifetime. It is a matter of choice.

Now, I am sixteen years old, coming originally from Afghanistan. However, I grew up in Iran, in a village called Karat, close to Tehran with my parents, my sister and my brother. Back in Iran, we had no documents and I could not go to school. I came to Greece alone on September 2017. I stayed in Turkey for 9 months, until I finally reached the island of Lesvos, where I stayed for 10 days. I am currently living in a hotel facility close to Athens for more than a year with the support of IOM. At the same time, I keep constant contact with my family through my cell phone and my social media accounts. On a typical day, I wake up at 6 in the morning, to have time to pray and eat my breakfast. I have been going to Greek school for the last 2 months, using the main intercity public transport bus service. My goal is to learn a few words in Greek and my teachers have been proved kind and helpful. My classmates are also supportive and some of them have become my friends. I love rap music and my favorite food is pasta. I feel safe here and calm. Recently I was informed about my relocation in the United Kingdom under the project “Transfer of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from Italy, France and Greece to the United Kingdom”. This is a huge step for me. This is a very positive development for my future. I am looking forward to starting my new life in the UK. My mother also is very happy with this change, which will bring more stability in my life."




Zahra's story


"I am looking at my son… he loves playing outside. Although he is only two (2) neither me nor my husband can stop him from going outside of the container where he finds other kids and plays the whole day every day. As for me, I am Zahra, Banyamin’s mum, and I am twenty-two (22) years old. Having my boy was a blessing but for the moment both me and my husband think that one child is enough.

I come from Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan. Leaving my country after getting married was due to a wish to build a better, more secure life elsewhere. Unrest and the constant state of war was not something we could handle anymore. Wishing to receive a good education made me want to go to university from where I had a dream to graduate. Unfortunately, attacks and suicide bombings made it impossible for me to continue. It was only for a year that I attended English Literature classes but dropped them because of fear of getting wounded or even killed. Since I was a little girl, my dream was to become a teacher. In the near future, I want to continue my studies and then teach English, find a calm place to settle down and be able to help my son be his own man, independent and strong. When I was young, I had not had the support every child needs thus. But, since I am in a position to offer it to my own kid, it is exactly what I want to do.

At present, the tranquil space we are looking for as a couple is what we have here, this IOM facility. Living in a container protected, enjoying IOM staff’s support and having left the chaotic situation of Moria camp, on Lesbos, were we spent almost ten (10) horrific months, have all worked wonders on our psychology. The past is behind us, so let us be grateful for small blessings. Nevertheless, what I would advise other people like me is to trust no one; let nobody, especially outsiders and well-wishers, raise any false hopes. Being a migrant is tough on its own not to mention promises that can be transformed into wishful thinking and break you. I was broken by such promises in the recent past by a person who said she could and would help me move abroad. After realizing the harsh reality, I was left with nothing other than the absolute ‘must’: pulling myself together and standing up on my two feet again."



The life story of Kareem and his family


“I am Kareem Al Humaidi and I am 33 years old. Me and my family came from Iraq to Greece, in the hopes of surviving and being safe. Now we are waiting for the asylum application to be examined. My whole family joined me in this journey. I have 2-year-old son, Nasri. While we were living in Iraq, the situation was very tense. Religious persecution was the actual reason we fled our country and our hometown. But it was not the only problem in the area. When we were no longer safe, I decided to take my family with me and leave immediately. It was a very dangerous time. A very risky decision.

On May 29th, 2018 we arrived at the port of Samos. We stayed there for a period of 7 months approximately. Then, we were transferred to a hotel facility in the center of Athens, under FILOXENIA project funded by European Commission - DG Home.

When I think of my life back in Iraq before it all started, things were quiet and ordinary. I used to work as an automotive technician. I also had a job at a gas station being responsible not only for cars but also for the cashier’s office and the logistics.

On the other hand, I also had a creative side that was uncovered. From a very young age I used to paint. It started in school, as a hobby. But then I saw that I had a gift. Time after time, I painted and at some point, I did so professionally. I think the reason I was so good, is that I absolutely love painting! So much so, that I couldn’t imagine my life without painting. When I was living back in Iraq my art had to be censored. I was not able to paint people and things I wanted. Faces, cartoons, landscapes, are the main source of my inspiration. And I would love to do that here. To be free and to feel safe in my everyday life and in my art.

This is what I want most of all, now that I am here. I want to stay here and grow. I want to take care of my family, go to school and learn Greek."




Cedrick and his art


"My name is Cedrick Diyavova and I am 26 years old. I was born and raised in DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo), where I used to live with my family, my wife and my twin boys. About two years ago, me and my family found ourselves in the middle of political conflict and, following certain episodes in my hometown, I had to leave my city and my loved ones. I had to do so, since I was no longer feeling safe. Then, my journey began. I was on my own but hoping for the best. What kept me going was the hope of arriving someplace where I would be free to express myself, without endangering myself or my family.

After a lot of hardships, I arrived at the port of Lesvos in November 2018. I stayed at the camp of Moria for about 3 weeks before I was transferred to another location that was closer to Athens. Since then, I have been staying in organized facilities, through IOM’s Filoxenia program funded by the European Commission - DG Home, and taking language courses regularly. I participate in Greek and English classes, while I am also learning how to manage my time and priorities effectively. I want to make the most of the activities provided, and my goal is to combine them with my interests. My greatest passion is sculpture, especially using wood and metal. I also love ceramic sculpture and painting.

Sculpture has been my passion from a young age. Soon I realized that I was talented, that it was like a charisma, an innate gift. At first, I tried it for fun and as time went by, I was getting better and better. Now, my art has meaning. I want to convey messages through my creations: human dignity, freedom, living beings and nature. These themes are at the center of my art. When I use wood for my sculptures, I create minimal designs with inherent symbolism. Metal serves another purpose. I use it to make sculptures of birds, cats and dogs, eagles. I am inspired both from domestic animals and from endangered species.

This is my gift and my passion. I want to keep on working on it. Especially in Athens, where there are plenty of options and opportunities for me, both in quantity and in quality!"


Azizullah Anwari's story


"I am Afghan from Pakistan and my name is Azizullah Anwari. In a short while I will turn 17 and I am in Greece for a bit more than one-and-a-half years. The first two months I spent them on Lesvos island, my first stop in Greece. Later on, I was transferred to Thessaloniki and after that to a hotel for minor migrants run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM Greece) in northern Greece. I have been here for over a year.

At the beginning of 2018, when I had been first transferred to northern Greece, I did not like how things were. Mainly because I had no clue of what would happen to me in the near future or when and how this would happen. I sought asylum and applied for it as soon as I reached Greece. However, once I got to the north, the asylum service personnel registered me anew, thus giving me a totally new date for an interview with them, in September 2019. I was deeply disappointed, since that meant my case would be examined much later than I had anticipated.

While I was in Lesbos, the UNHCR staff told me about a certain programme, that of family reunification. In case I decided to apply for it, I would be able to go to my brother who lives in Sweden. He could, thus, become my legal guardian. The matter was reviewed and finalized once I got to Greece’s north and spoke with the IOM people in charge of the accommodation structure, I’m now staying at. We had been apart for five years. It was he who left first and then I followed his lead. I cannot wait to see him again.

Until the moment I left my home, I was living in Pakistan with my family. My parents and four other siblings are still there; our place in NW Pakistan, near Balochistan. For the moment it is just wishful thinking, but I cannot but stop imagining reuniting with my whole family. What counts the most right now is to finish school and then go to university. When I was a kid, I was dreaming of joining the special forces. Nowadays, working with people like me for example is what I find intriguing and would wish to help them build a better life.

I’m leaving Greece with mixed feelings, good and bad memories alike. Thanking the IOM for the help and support its staff offered me is the least I could do to show them my appreciation. Moreover, I want to thank the UNHCR as well as the rest of the NGOs for their valuable support during my stay in the Greece."



Nwanyen Marcel Kunped's story


"I am Nwanyen Marcel Kunped, 40 years old, born and raised in Cameroon. I reached Greece in 2017 and to be more exact Lesbos. Then, I was taken to Moria camp.

I became one of the many displaced people in my country due to the ongoing conflict in Cameroon's Anglophone regions that broke out in 2016. Before leaving my homeland, I was imprisoned for two (2) years merely because I was brought up mainly as an English -not French- speaker, thus I belonged to the Anglophone region of the country (following WWI and the Treaty of Versailles, Cameroon was divided between a French and a British League of Nations Mandate).

The feeling of cultural oppression was always with me. Although I had become a political activist fighting for the rights of English speakers in Cameroon, I could sense things were serious and the country had entered a dangerous path.

Thanks to my clean criminal record, when an English-speaking general freed me from jail realized I had been imprisoned because of my cultural background and pushed me to abandon the country immediately. Otherwise, he told me he feared I would be killed, and he would be held liable for freeing me. Thanks to that general, a military escort drove me to the border with Nigeria -so that no one would stop us on our way there; this is where my journey to Europe began. It was the November 1st, 2017. On Christmas Day that year, I arrived on Lesbos where I spent nearly a year. Then, I was transferred to Asprovalta and later on here, at the hotel where we are having the interview. In Thessaloniki I got the chance to meet IOM and its people. The overcrowded camp, the challenging, unhygienic conditions, could be left behind I felt like a human being again, earning back my self-esteem.

The best news reached me last May; Greece had recognized me as a refugee and granted me the asylum I had applied for. Now I am expecting to get my formal papers, my passport and issuing my VAT number.

Thinking of the past is part of who I am and the people I have left behind -three brothers I have no news of and a fiancée who is hiding in Cameroon. The staff of IOM are the ones I feel closest to me in the past months and want to thank them for their support. They are like brothers to me and I must admit they are spoiling us (the beneficiaries). In the years prior to the present crisis in Cameroon I was working as a manager in big firms. Having two degrees in Financial History and Business Management, the posts were perfect for me. At present, as a refugee in Greece, what I am truly looking forward to is becoming a useful and productive citizen again. For now, the only high hope I have is to live a good and calm life hereafter."


Khaled's story


"I am Khaled Alhaj and I come from Deir ez-Zor in Syria. In 2014, ISIS took over my city. After losing my wife in the war, I decided to leave our place along with my 4 children. For five years, between 2014 and 2019 myself and nine more members of the family were internally displaced, constantly moving around Syria depending on where the war was taking place in order to avoid it. In February 2019, we finally left Syria, moved to Turkey where we remained for a month and crossed Greece a month later. Our first stop was Samos where we arrived in mid-March, 2019.

I had with me my three sons and my daughter while I also travelled together with my sister and her three boys. But it wasn’t just us. My mum, who is over 100 years old, travelled with us and we were taking care of her as much as we could. Even though her ID says 92, in Syria there were no proper birth records when she was born. Thus, years later, when authorities asked her to register, I believe they just took a guess.

We were recently transferred from Samos to the mainland, and we are presently hosted at the IOM open accommodation site in Kato Milia, Katerini.

Remembering the old and good times in Syria hurts us all but mostly my elderly mother; she often sings really old Syrian songs in a low voice – a solace to her. I have a feeling she is also hurt by the family splitting, as 3 of my brothers are in Syria, one is in Turkey while most of our relatives have moved to Germany.

Right now, thanks to the IOM staff of the SMS North program, me and my beloved ones are sharing two containers. We are happy that, so far, we have managed to remain together this whole time. At the same time, we have requested IOM to help us get a proper flat - even a small one. It is being processed by the Organization and we are thankful for this.

When I am being asked about the near future, I still feel unsure. Nevertheless, I must admit that what counts the most is to see my family (the ones we are now in Greece) united, safe and calm. We all agree that we need to forget the mayhem we left behind, bury the bad memories and move on. No thoughts of leaving Greece until now. Our wishful thinking… to return to Syria and, do believe me, if things get better, we will."


Dler's story




“My name is Dler and I come from Iraq. I came to Greece on foot through Turkey, when I was 17 years old. Firstly, I arrived in Samos island, where I stayed only for a few months. Then I was transferred to a hotel in Thessaloniki, where migrant & refugee minors currently reside, and upon completion of my 18th year of age I registered to Thermopyles’ open accommodation site for migrants & refugees.

I have been living here for the past 5 months and I am waiting to go to Netherlands. Finally, my dream is going to come true. I have always wanted to go to Netherlands to study and work. Studying and working has been my dream. It is something that gives me hope every day!

 Ever since I remember myself, I had always been working in my father’s car service business. I managed to learn almost everything around cars, fixing and engine alternation, gaining an expertise in fiber-glass designs and constructions.

I was lucky as my father had an expert assistant who stood by my and was always willing to teach me everything - as he actually did!

However, now I know for sure that the first thing I need to do is to study! While being in Samos I learnt English & German, through a lot of self-motivation and a lot of help. I decided to go to the Netherlands because my uncle and most of my relatives are there.

My uncle has his own hair salon, making wigs, thus I will have a job to be able to support myself economically, both for living and my studies. My dream is to become an engineer, and this is what I will study! I feel very anxious about going to the Netherlands and finally have the chance to make my life.

At the same time, I feel relaxed being only one step away from my mission! However, I will miss the friends in the site and all the people that I have met in Greece, especially IOM’s personnel who stood by me every day.

I believe that a dream never fades out when there is hope."


IOM ensures dignified and harmonized reception and protection standards for migrants - including asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection - residing in accommodation sites in mainland Greece, by supporting the Government of Greece in the daily management of all long-term accommodation sites, with the support of Directorate General Migration and Home Affairs of the European Commission (DG HOME).



Karim's story



“My name is Karim and I am and thirty-seven-year-old (37) Afghan who was born, raised and educated in Tehran, Iran. However, the other members of my family were born and brought up in Afghanistan. Growing up as an Afghan in Iran was sheer marginalization because the priority was always given to the local population and not us, the Afghans.

Nevertheless, I tried hard and thanks to my persistence, I went to the university from where I graduated with an MA on economics. Life in Iran was hard even for me, a university title holder, only because of my Afghan identity. After issuing a proper Afghan passport in Kabul, I went back to Tehran proud of who I was, but things turned harder than I thought. Discrimination was something I could not take any more along with safety and financial issues I had to cope with. On a daily basis, I also had to deal with being deported back to Afghanistan; although it was my family’s country of origin, my actual home was Iran, thus I was unable to consider Kabul, as my alternative home city. Moreover, in order to complete my university studies, I had to cross to Afghanistan every six months so as to renew my passport and then continue studying. Pressure was way too much.

In 2018, after my last necessary visit to Kabul, my mind was made up. I returned to Iran and then crossed to Turkey where I went straight to the UN offices in Ankara in order to apply for asylum. The UN then sent me to Sacarya province, situated on the Ankara-Istanbul highway. But I did not wish to stay in Turkey so I kind of ‘escaped’ and crossed into Greece. I ended up in Samos but the overall trip from Tehran there lasted about three (3) months. The time spent on Samos however, was slightly more -nearly five (5) months. In Vrasna I arrived two (2) months ago and I must admit that the IOM services have been a wonder. I want to remain in Greece and get to the point when I will be able to enjoy the freedom of locals. I am self-taught in Greek which I am learning with the help of a book. Even though I am already an MA holder, I would wish to advance my studies. As an Afghan living in Iran I could not get my dream job; a job corresponding to my degree -thus it is something I would like to achieve here.

Needless to add that I am very happy with IOM’s support and above all, I want to say that the Organization offers me trust and the safety net I feel I need in life right now."


Being a beneficiary of IOM’s project, Karim receives dignified and harmonized protection standards, with the support of the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund of the European Union.


Marina's story



Marina Theodorou has been a social worker of the Hellenic Council for Refugees since August 2018, working at the Safe Zone of Elaionas. Insofar she has undertaken ten cases of unaccompanied minors. "It has always been my goal to work with the children" she says. "Working with unaccompanied minors is the ideal framework because it has a lot of peculiarities; because of the difference in the culture of these children, because of their vulnerability and because of being children…”.

Marina admits that, her work poses many difficulties, as the Safe Zone functions 24 hours per day. "We should spend a lot of time working so as to get the best out of the children”. We ask her if she has ever thought of giving up: "Sometimes yes” she admits, “mainly due to the frustration that you may feel. But this feeling goes away very quickly. Seeing the children again, gives me the motivation to continue. At the end of the day I leave the Safe Zone with full of satisfaction!".

Besides, life in the safe zone has many beautiful moments. These moments are related to the process of children’ successful & smooth integration into the Greek society. Marina says: "There are many pleasant moments. For example, it is a great pleasure to hear good words about the children at school. It's very nice to know that they gradually have a regularity, a routine, that they feel safe”.

As for her relationship with the children, Marina stresses out that there is a tender relationship with them, not a friendly one. "I am definitely tied to children and have feelings ... But my role is not to be friends with the children. My role is specific, as I am responsible for them as a social worker. The children's behavior reflects her own approach to them as well. "At the beginning, children did not trust me, they treated me with suspicion. It took time to gain their trust. Trust is built every day and the initial suspicion turns into appreciation and respect". This gradual build-up of mutual understanding with the children offers Marina a moral satisfaction that makes her happy.

When we finished the interview, we asked what the biggest lesson is she has learnt from children during her work time: "To appreciate more; We all should appreciate the things we have in our every day. Nothing should be taken for granted: neither our education & our work, neither our family… We must feel happy and grateful every day for what we have, this is the moral lesson I have learnt. "


IOM ensures dignified and harmonized reception and protection standards for migrants - including asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection - residing in accommodation sites in mainland Greece, by supporting the Government of Greece in the daily management of all long-term accommodation sites, with the support of Directorate General Migration and Home Affairs of the European Commission (DG HOME). Interventions were developed and are implemented in partnership with organizations and partners who are already present in the sites as SMS agencies like the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR).


* The interview was given to Panteion students (Department of Communication, Media and Culture Dept, members of the "Leadership and EQ Lab" of ADandPRLab) within the framework of the #RefugeeProject, in collaboration with IOM Greece.



Konstantina's story




“My name is Konstantina Karakatsani. I am 33 years old, born and raised in Greece with studies in psychology and clinical support of vulnerable populations. The last years, I have been working in the field of child protection, supporting migrant & refugee people. Currently, I am working as a Child Protection Manager for GCR (Greek Council for Refugees) at Elaionas’ Safe Zone for Unaccompanied Minors. At the Safe Zone, our aim is to support minors in a holistic way either short or longer-term context, bearing in mind that they might stay with us for a longer period. Along with my colleagues I try to be a good example for the children, encourage them, enhance their resilience and help them build skills that will be useful for them in their daily life. In a typical day, when coming to the safe zone, one of the first things I do is get informed by my colleagues and talk with the children in order to ensure that everyone is fine, and the structure operates smoothly. Then I communicate with other agencies, external partners, partners within our organization, government agencies and employees within the structure and I manage shift schedules.

At the Safe Zone, challenges occur on a daily basis. There are times when you have to put your other obligations, tasks and deadlines aside because of needs of the population we support. For example, children may have such an outburst – sometimes due to a cause of minor importance to us - and it can take a lot of time to calm them down while ensuring that this tension will not cause a generalized issue. There is also another difficulty, in accepting that you cannot solve the refugee crisis on your own, as not everything is under your control. You can be though part of the solution. So, I believe that this acceptance helps me focus on what I can do and the things I can control, while using in the most effective way all the available sources and tools, aiming to the children’s best interest. Apart from the difficulties, those who stay longer in this field, they remain for the beautiful moments. And we have plenty of those. What to remember first? From the festivities, the farewells to the feedback that a child will give you when leaving Greece and proceeding to thank you for all the beautiful moments and opportunities he had with you and your team while staying in the structure. There is a plethora of small moments that touch you just by observing them.For example, last winter we went hiking with the scouts; an Arabic-speaking child got tired and Afghani children carried him in their hands so as not to leave him behind. When you experience children denying their differences and recognizing each other as friend - while knowing what these children have been through and that they are cautious with people of other nationalities - it touches you. I may not always be able to achieve my goals in the meaning of the timeframe that I have set in my mind, but something is working effectively and basically this is what we all want.

I will say something I often say to my colleagues. We have it as our moto here in the Safe Zone, it is a quote from Russell Barkley; The children who need love the most will ask for it in the most unloving ways. There are children who have a lot of outbursts and you do not know what they want or how to support them properly, then we try to remind ourselves that what they are asking essentially is our care. Therefore, if I keep something from my work with unaccompanied minors, it is that they are children, regardless of where they are from or what situations they have been through. If you manage to treat them as children and take care of them, you will be able to do your job effectively while sometimes rewarding yourself even more than them."


IOM ensures dignified and harmonized reception and protection standards for migrants - including asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection - residing in accommodation sites in mainland Greece, by supporting the Government of Greece in the daily management of all long-term accommodation sites, with the support of Directorate General Migration and Home Affairs of the European Commission (DG HOME). Interventions were developed and are implemented in partnership with organizations and partners who are already present in the sites as SMS agencies like the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR).

* The interview was given to Panteion students (Department of Communication, Media and Culture Dept, members of the "Leadership and EQ Lab" of ADandPRLab) within the framework of the #RefugeeProject, in collaboration wtih IOM Greece.


Salha's story


"My name is Salha Alsulaiman, I am 80 years old and I came to Greece in November 2018 from Syria, through Turkey and the island of Samos. I came alone. All my family is in different countries around Europe. I have children in Germany, in Sweden and in Austria. I was the last to leave our home back to Dei ez – Zor, our home city. I sell all my jewelry and gave the money to my children to travel to Europe. Now, I am currently staying in a hotel in Athens, were I receive all proper medication and care. I feel safe and sound. Every time I get in contact with my children I am crying out of happiness. I have applied for family reunification and I am looking forward to meeting my children in Germany."





Al Anzi Tajil's story


"My name is Al Anzi Tajil and I came to Greece from Kuwait in October 2018 with my two sons. Our first stop was on the island of Samos and now I am currently staying at a hotel in Athens with my 17 – year - old son. The other one stayed on Samos. I am a Bedouin, living always a nomadic life, travelling from place to place. Back to my home country, I had no legal documentation to send my two children to school. Furthermore, since 1984 I am facing serious health problems with my kidney and I was not able to receive medical care either. I have applied for asylum and I want to spend the rest of my life in Europe. I feel strong enough to take care of my children. My only wish for the moment is to be reunited with my other son, who is on the island of Samos."







Khaled's story * 




“My name is Khaled. I am 38 years old, coming from Afghanistan. I came to Greece as a refugee in 2002 when I was 17 years old. I faced many difficulties back then. I used to sleep on the street; I had nobody to help me. In 2002 there were not any NGOs or social services to support us. However, I tried very hard. I managed to be an interpreter and built my life from the beginning. For some time, I worked in an organization called ‘Global refugee program’ and later, the last 7 months, I am working as a GCR interpreter at the safe zone of Elaionas’ open accommodation site for migrants & refugees, where unaccompanied migrant children currently reside. At the same time, I go to school, improving my Greek language skills and I am expecting along with my wife my first child.

Our life at the safe zone is full of challenges every day; but at the same time is emotional and full of happiness. When the children firstly came at the safe zone were physically and psychologically exhausted, without any hopes or goals. They were quite suspicious. I was just an employee for them, not a person who really wanted to help and support them.

However, as life went on the children changed their behavior towards me and their attitude for life. They started going to school, learn Greek & English and participating in many other educational & recreational activities as well. Gradually they began to be more optimistic, setting new goals for life. They wanted to study and work, starting a new life.

This is also the biggest reward for me, to see the children changing and getting better and better. After 7 months at the safe zone I have built a strong and substantial relationship with them. They are coming and saying to me “Good morning, how are you?”. They are cooking falafel and sandwiches for me. When I respond, “Thank you, I am not hungry”, their answer is “I made it for you”. This gives me the strength to continue my effort and my work in a daily basis.

When it comes to our relationship with the kids, we are not only interpreters, we are cultural mediators, we are like a family, we take care of each other. If you do not get to know the children, their history, the difficulties that have been through, you cannot help them. We have and we want to be there for them.

I would like to share, a quite emotional moment for me. One day, a little boy came to me at the site, bringing a flower. I was very surprised, wondering what the meaning of this gesture was, what the boy might be thinking. I took a picture of the flower so as to remember that day.  All these little moments are so overwhelming, giving me the courage to continue. The thought that you can change these children’s attitude is the best reward for our work. Especially for me, what matters the most, is to give them the love and care that I was deprived of, back in 2002."

IOM ensures dignified and harmonized reception and protection standards for migrants - including asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection - residing in accommodation sites in mainland Greece, by supporting the Government of Greece in the daily management of all long-term accommodation sites, with the support of Directorate General Migration and Home Affairs of the European Commission (DG HOME). Interventions were developed and are implemented in partnership with organizations and partners who are already present in the sites as SMS agencies like the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR).

* The interview was given to Panteion students (Department of Communication, Media and Culture Dept, members of  the "Leadership and EQ Lab" of ADandPRLab) within the framework of the #RefugeeProject, in collaboration with IOM Greece.



Divine Kisese's story


“I am 26 years old and I came to Greece from the Democratic Republic of Congo. I stayed in Chios, where I gave birth to my baby, for six months. Moise and I are currently living in a hotel in Athens. I want to learn both the Greek and the English language, so I can work here as a beautician. Back to my country, I used to work in clothes – boutique”.

Divine Kisese is currently living in a hotel in Athens, under IOM’s Greece project FILOXENIA.







Faysal Gahmous' story


Faysal Gahmous is 32 years old, coming from Algeria. His congenital disability does not prevent him from being a fighter. He reached Greece and the island of Samos in September 2018 and his is currently staying at a hotel in Athens. He loves Europe and he wants to stay in Greece, receive a treatment and search for a job.

Under FILOXENIA project special care is foreseen for vulnerable people coming from the islands.







Saad's story




“My name is Saad and I’m 23 years old. I’m from Iraq, the area of Shingal and I came in Greece alone on July 2018. Since then I live in Serres’ open accommodation site.

My family is still in Iraq; I have 9 sisters and 2 brothers. My mother and father are old people, whom I really adore. They all live in a camp close to Dahook, where it is very difficult to survive. Nobody is supporting them.

Since a small child, I was dreaming to travel to Europe and establish my life in a European country. However in Iraq, it was very difficult to dream for a better future. There are no opportunities for personal development and normal life. I managed to learn English in refugee camps that I was living. An American volunteer that I met in Bulgaria helped me a lot to improve my English language skills and now I feel able to translate and support other people as well.

Here in Serres, I am almost every day at the local hospital, providing translation on a voluntary basis to the people in need. Every time when a family asks for my help, I really cannot refuse; I see my own father and mother in their faces. I really love my father and missed him a lot. He is an old man with whom I have very strong relation and connection. My dream is to be able to find job and support my family for their elderly years.

When I have free time and I feel sad & overwhelmed, I listen to music or play a guitar to the volunteers of the site. I love music! Music is what makes me happy, filling me with energy to keep on. My future goal is to become a DJ and work in an environment with a lot of music!”

Being a beneficiary of IOM’s project, Saad receives dignified and harmonized protection standards, with the support of the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund of the European Union.




Manu and Guus' story: Working with "Musicians Without Borders"



“Sky is the limit, only there is no limit!”

This is the motto of Manu and Guus, trainers of Musicians Without Borders, an organization that uses the power of music to connect communities. Manu and Guus are both musicians from the Netherlands, who visited IOM Greece open accommodation sites of migrants & refugees in Greece, Attica and provided hip hop workshops for the unaccompanied migrant children of the Safe Zones. They made rap music together and wrote rhymes with lots of rhythm!

But this wasn’t their first time abroad. Since 2015 when they first visited Palestine, they have been in many places & areas around the world, working with some of the world’s most vulnerable communities, closely with local musicians & organizations and building sustainable projects in response to local needs. Both passionate with music, they strongly believe in its power; They see music as a powerful tool that can influence behavior, shape culture and strengthen social bonds.

“We use music as a means to enlighten people and societies divided and affected by conflict & war,” says Manu. “We’re doing the thing we love, using & sharing it for educational & meaningful purposes with young people, like unaccompanied migrant children, who are vulnerable minors.  We try to empower them through our projects to find a way to express themselves”. For Guus, music is an integral part of human nature, as it has the potential to bring people together. He sees rap and hip hop as a very important tool to engage young people worldwide. “It is part of their daily culture, a way to communicate”.  He explains that being a member of “Musicians Without Borders,” gives him the opportunity to collaborate with local musicians too, making new projects, sharing music and bringing hope to some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

In Schisto and Elaionas’ refugee camps, in Attica, Manu and Guus collaborated with IOM Greece, making a unique music project for the minors, giving them the opportunity to have fun, communicate and express themselves easily through lyrics. Making music and working with the unaccompanied migrant children has a real impact on both musicians: “It keeps me humble,” says Manu. “It makes your own problems seem very small,” adds up Guus.

For “Musicians Without Borders”, music is a tool to bridge divides and promote social change. A unique tool that has no limits, only the unlimited power to influence people and bring them together. As, Manu and Guus say “Sky is the limit, only there is no limit!”, using the quote of the music documentary krumping and clowning “Rise."

IOM ensures dignified and harmonized reception and protection standards for migrants - including asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection - residing in accommodation sites in mainland Greece, by supporting the Government of Greece in the daily management of all long-term accommodation sites, with the support of Directorate General Migration and Home Affairs of the European Commission (DG HOME).


Tabetha's story


“I would like to give her everything, to my daughter. Everything that I could not have,” says Tabetha.

Tabetha is a young woman, 26 y/o from Cameroon, currently staying at a hotel in Athens. As her life was in danger, she was forced to leave her country, to be safe and raise her baby. She came to Greece 8 months ago, through Turkey within a boat. At first, she arrived in Samos island, where she stayed at the reception and identification center there for one month. Benefiting from IOM’s FILOXENIA project, she was moved to Athens, receiving accommodation and extra care as a pregnant single woman.


Back to Cameroon, she attended 2 years university courses in communication studies and had foreign language lessons. She would like to continue her studies in Greece or in another European country and find a job to raise properly her baby girl.




Dlvin' s family: Going back to Iraq




“My name is Dlvin Tamr and together with my husband and our four children, we decided to leave behind our life in Iraq due to some financial difficulties we were facing. We arrived on the island of Samos from Turkey in February 2018.

At first, when we reached Samos, our everyday life was peaceful and calm. Unfortunately, the population of the accommodation site started to increase, and our living conditions were getting more challenging.

We were facing power and water problems on a daily basis. Furthermore, our kids were getting sick pretty often and given the fact that we were living in a tent, it was not always easy to deal with it.

During our stay on the island of Samos we made a lot of friends. At the same time though, our thoughts were with our family and relatives back to Iraq. We started thinking returning home. We were informed about AVRR project from people who have already returned from Samos through the assistance of IOM Greece officers.

All details were provided and with their valuable help we registered for AVRR. It is a matter of time now to return back home.

We sold all my home appliances before our departure to Europe. So, I would like to use reintegration assistance to buy some basic home items, since after our return, we will live in an empty apartment. Home appliances will facilitate us to restart our daily life back home.

We have mixed feelings definitely, but our choice to go back and rebuild our lives there is clear.”

The project "The implementation of Assisted Voluntary Returns including Reintegration measures" (AVRR) is co-funded by Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) (75%) and by the Greek Ministry of Interior (25%).




Dina's new beginning back in Georgia




“My name is Dina and I come from Georgia.

I first came to Greece in 2004. My sister-in-law had come to Greece several years ago and she is still living and working legally in Chania, on the island of Crete. Back to my country, I was working as an economist, but my company went bankrupt and I found myself unemployed, together with another 2,000 people. I was looking for months to get a job, while my husband who was working as a professor at a university stopped getting paid, as well. At the same time, we had three sons to raise. The older one, was studying at the university. We could not afford paying for his studies. There was no income for the family. Although he was a good student and the university helped us a lot, he could no longer continue his studies there.

That was the moment when I decided to leave my country and look for a job somewhere else. My husband was against my decision, but I had no alternative. My children’s future was a priority for me. I sought information related to Greece with the help of my sister in law and I decided to start this journey hoping for a better future. I travelled as a tourist by bus from Georgia to Athens and from there by ferry to Chania. Irregular travelling was not my option.

The first months were difficult, I felt sick, I went to doctors and they told me that my health situation was fragile due to psychological reasons. Everyone urged me to go back home, but there was no way back for me. I could not give up and I did not give up.

All these years I was working as a domestic servant. I was even doing two jobs in parallel. From morning till noon, I was going to a house helping mainly with the households and after finishing with that, I was working till night in another house. I was earning good money, enough to live in Greece and to send to my family back in Georgia, as well.

I want to thank all the families who have trusted me; who have offered me work and who have treated me in a so nice way. I will never forget the first family I worked for, which had an 8-year-old son. When he was learning the Greek alphabet, I was sitting next to him to learn the language, and this is how I learnt Greek. Soon I started to read stories and fairy tales to him.

I did not expect from them to be so nice. I do not know how to thank them. Greece is now a part of me.

I found out about AVRR from a friend of mine, who returned to Georgia two months ago. She was very pleased with IOM services. The die had been cast. I wanted to go back to my children; I wanted to meet my grandchildren.

I contacted the AVRR Information Officer who operates in Crete for more information related to the programme and he assisted me with the procedures I should follow. Consequently, I visited IOM premises in Athens where I was provided with a reintegration counseling session discussing my options. The same week, after getting my air ticket and the cash assistance, I got informed that upon my return to my country, I would be benefited with the in-kind reintegration assistance, as well. I returned to Georgia while in less than a month my small business had been set up.

I am happy and satisfied since all of us have found our way. One of my sons is a lawyer, the other one became an accountant and the third one an economist. And I…returned to them, running my own small business.”

Reintegration is a process that enables returnee migrants to participate in the social, cultural, economic and political life of his or her country of origin again.

The programme "The implementation of Assisted Voluntary Returns, including Reintegration measures” (AVRR) is co-funded at 75 per cent by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund of the European Union (AMIF) and 25 per cent by the Hellenic Ministry of Interior.