An immigrant integrates into Greek society- Interview

On Sunday 18th December 2016 RefVoice team decided to meet Rashed, a refugee from Syria who has been living in Greece for nine years. We decided to “study” a unique case of a refugee who managed to integrate into Greek society.

Rashed, a really wonderful person, with a broad and sweet smile, despite difficulties, answered all our questions with simplicity, patience and honesty. We were impressed with his gratitude towards Greece and his love for Greek people. It is a fact that many refugees refuse or find it difficult to integrate in the new country of residence. Rashed however showed us that there are those that make the difference and are struggling to get back on their feet with dignity despite the enormous effort required by the process. He describes how an immigrant and a refugee can integrate the Greek society and ‘’restart’’ their lives with dignity in another country.

Rashed learned Greek within a year. Something very difficult and for many people almost impossible, if we take into account the fact that many Greek don’t know how to speak properly even their language. However he did not stop there! This period he’s studying at the university. He also mentioned that in Greece he finally feels free to express his opinion. But above all what he likes in Greece is the people with whom he says immediately became friend.

Back in Syria, Rashed was a photographer. Of course, refugeeism did not force him to abandon his love for photography and continues actively to deal with it, producing many remarkable works.

Of course, at this point we must mention that our most interesting discussions are not recorded. The fact is that the best discussions happen when there is no camera pressure or a tape recorder in function. Anyway we have available transcripts of some very interesting comments from Rashed on various aspects of his life. We hope to make you see some things differently after reading this interview.

In the beginning we would like to ask you how long have you been living in Greece.

I live here from early 2008, almost 9 years.

When did you get involved with the photography?

I entered the faculty the academic year 2012–2013 and I continue studying till today.

Why did you choose photography as a means of expression? What was it that attracted you?

I was a photographer back in Syria. I worked in Fujifilm for 5 years. That’s why I chose it. I went to the Ministry of Education and I completed the application for the faculty. I decided photography faculty because I had already experience working in Fujifilm.

Could you maybe talk us a little about your projects, the work you have done so far?

I’ve done three projects so far: Concerning refugees, I work as an interpreter and I went on mission to the Greek islands last year and the year before. The other two projects are related to Faculty: Tourism in Athens and attractions in Athens. My professor asked me to do this project.

Which one of your projects do you single out?

My trip at the islands, my refugee mission. I took pictures of small kids and pregnant women, of those who came from the sea. How they manage to arrive at the camping, how they move into the islands or towards Athens and Piraeus.

Are you still involved with this issue?

With the refugees?

Yes.

Of course and I’ll continue to work as an interpreter and refugee issue will be a part of my undergraduate project for my faculty, next year.

Good luck.

Thank you.

I would you like to ask you about Greek hospitality.

They are very hospitable. As long as we, refugees themselves, should know how to contact Greek people, learn about their society, the everyday life. In fact what I’ve seen is that they are really hospitable. Not only are they hospitable but also very pleasant and honest.

Do you believe that apart from the Greeks, refugees should also help to establish communication with them? Do you think that there must be an effort from both sides?

Everything starts from the society. They must learn about the society and how they should live. They should know how is Greek citizen in his everyday life, how to contact with him. Learning the language and the correct communication are really important.

In your opinion, do you believe, taking into consideration country’s difficult economic situation, that Greece could have done anything better for the refugees?

Despite the crisis and because of its humanity, I believe yes. Greek people are very hospitable and they know a lot cause they had lived under difficult situations. They really try to help refugees. However they could improve housing and medical care. I’m not saying that they don’t provide facilities but perhaps they could go one step further.

Concerning the future, would you like to stay in Greece or would you prefer to leave?

At first my intention was to leave to Canada but something went wrong so I stayed for two years in Greece. I liked the society, the lifestyle, the climate; I have a lot of friends here. So I continue my life in Greece as a Greek citizen. That applies to the Greek citizen applies for me. So I continue my life in Greece.

When you say something happened you mean the bureaucracy or something changed inside you and you wanted to stay here?

As I already told you, my intention was to go to Canada. However I didn’t leave because of economic reasons. I would have cost me a lot of money. After two years I managed to integrate into Greek society. I realized that I can live here and continue my life. So I decided to stay permanently in Greece. I suppose I have managed to succeed a lot of things so far.(laughs)

Do you find the other countries’ attitude hypocritical? Judging Greece and Italy on the way that they host refugees while those same countries do not even open their borders?

Both Italy and Greece have severe economic problems and they cannot afford this situation. That’s why they accept criticism. They cannot deal with all this. Certainly fair enough there are NGOs that help refugees. But their economic situation is the main problem.

However the other countries should not be so strict because refugee wave is huge and these countries cannot absorb all these refugees.

Do you believe that photography could sensitize the public concerning issues like refugee issue?

Through photographic lens is conveyed a very important message particularly for refugee issue and this message is that we can help refugees. There’s no need for someone to be a professional photographer, anyone can make a photographic project and feel the side of refugees.

I imagine that this is your own purpose through your photographic projects.

Yes, I try as much I can.

What is the greatest difficulty you have faced so far in Greece?

Finding a job. Especially in 2011 and 2012 I struggled because of the financial crisis. Now I am somewhat better.

How did you manage to do that?

I did it through contact with the Greeks. I met a lot of people and this helped me a lot to survive and have a permanent shelter. Now I have a job, I can stand on my feet and have a better life.

Thank you very much Rashed.

Transcript: Mairy Mpouli, Maria Vasilakou, Stavroula Pollatou

Questions: Mairy Mpouli, Maria Vasilakou, Stavroula Pollatou

Copyediting: Stavroula Pollatou

Translation to English: Maria Vasilakou

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Team members: Mary Bouli, Stavroula Pollatou, Maria Vasilakou

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