On Sunday, August 5th, the President of the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrent, visited the Open Cultural Center in Polykastro. He also visited the Nea Kavala Refugee Camp which is the main place of residence for the beneficiaries of OCC activities. After visiting the camp in the morning, and to better understand the living conditions of the refugees and asylum seekers who live at the camp and in the surrounding areas, Torrent was eager to meet and speak with them in-person. The OCC staff therefore organized an informal panel attended by refugee community members from different nationalities served by the OCC program: Congolese, Somali, Afghans, Syrians, Kurdish and Iraqis.
The discussion was divided in two: during the first half, Torrent explained the position of Catalunya regarding migration and refugee policies; he also discussed the big obstacle existing due to the gap between regional capacity for hospitality and the decisions made at a national level. Mr. Torrent also underlined the main priorities of the Catalan Parliament: building safe routes to arrive to host countries and reverse the current trend of criminalization of the NGOs for sea recue, focusing especially on facilitating the disembarkations at Catalan harbors. Since migration is not an emergency but a structural phenomenon, the President of the Parliament stated that all the European Union governments should find a proper way to allocate the financial resources to manage it with a long-term prospective, instead of trying to stop the people on the move.
The second half of the discussion provided refugees the opportunity to voice their opinion and talk about their personal experiences in Greece. The major problems said to be faced by the community include: lack of security and access to basic services inside the camp, especially healthcare assistance; apathy for the asylum process that forces people to stay in Greece for several years; lack of integration with the local community and public discrimination; and poor working opportunities despite the high education level of most refugees. A memorable perspective was that of a Kurdish woman who stated that living in Greece was like dying a little every day, as most families are struggling with the uncertainty of what the future holds for them and their children. In his final remarks, Torrent pointed out that even if the Catalan Parliament alone can’t solve every single situation, they are committed to increasing the visibility of the refugee situation in Greece and to try and give the refugee community more support, especially to those in the Nea Kavala Refugee Camp.