Mikri Poli, a new community centre for refugees and migrants opens its doors today in Ioannina. The space, located in the village of Platanos, will offer a range of free educational, cultural and recreational activities for adults and children from all backgrounds, as well as support to access social services.
Asylum seekers and Greek individuals will also have the opportunity to interact, plan and run their own activities and events at the centre. The facilities include two classrooms, a computer lab, a family support room, a child care area, a kitchen and a lounge area.
The building hosting Mikri Poli, which used to be an old municipal kindergarten, has been recently renovated by Oxfam and Terre des hommes (Tdh), two international NGOs in Epirus that will run the centre with support from European Union emergency support funding.
Speaking about the community centre, Marilena Chatziantoniou, European Commission humanitarian expert in Greece said, “This initiative is another example of how the European Commission is working hard to improve the living conditions of refugees and migrants in Greece. The centre will give greater opportunities for integration and an increased access for refugees and migrants to information related to their rights and services available.”
“Mikri Poli represents a unique, multi-purpose place in Ioannina which aims to enrich the diversity and cultural life of the whole city and -at the same time- to support people fleeing their country in search of safety and dignity in Europe to obtain greater control over their lives and positively engage with the host community,” said Nicola Bay, Head of Mission, Oxfam in Greece.
“Mikri Poli will provide great opportunities to foster interactions between refugee and local population and thus understanding and positive coexistence. It will promote creativity and empowerment while proposing a wide range of activities open to all age groups and origins and essential services for asylum seekers,” commented Nathalie Derrien, Terre des hommes Country Representative in Greece.
In 2015/16, Greece has experienced an unprecedented influx of migrants and refugees fleeing war and deprivation in their home countries or in search of a better and safer life in the EU. With the closure of the so-called "Balkan migration route" in March 2016, tens of thousands of refugees were left stranded in the country. Following the EU-Turkey Statement, the number of new arrivals in Greece has dropped significantly.
Under a newly established EU emergency support instrument, the Commission has allocated €198 million for responding to the refugee situation Greece. Of this sum, €192 million have been contracted to date to the Commission's humanitarian aid partners such as UN-bodies, the Red Cross/Crescent and NGOs.