After Decade in Greece Not Welcome Anymore

A.* is an independent woman. First, she worked in the family business in Syria. After that, she went to Greece and established a life for herself there. But with a change of rules came a change of place. A. now lives in London, has recently received her refugee status and is eagerly looking for a job.

Successful in Greece

According to A., people from Syria didn’t use to travel much abroad before the war. “In Syria, we have everything – mountains, deserts, rivers, sea, history. When I was younger, I visited all cities in Syria. They each have their own beauty, even though many of them are destroyed now.” Having great beauty at home didn’t prevent A. from moving abroad, though. “I wanted to experience the Western way of life. I was really keen on doing so and applied for a visa ten years in a row.”

“I had everything: a job, nice colleagues and my own apartment with a view of the sea.”

When she was finally granted a student visa, A. went to Greece, where she established a life for herself – first as a student, then as an employee at an international office. She lived in Greece for almost a decade. “I had everything: a job, nice colleagues and my own apartment with a view of the sea.”

“I saw the good of Greece – more of the people than of the government.”

A. was still living in Athens when the influx of refugees started. “As someone with a stable job, I loved living in Greece. But for incoming refugees, it was a nightmare. They would struggle for shelter, for food, for basic human necessities. I would host as many people as I could in my apartment.” Things were difficult in Greece with the economic crisis. “The system was corrupt. But I saw the good of the Greek – more of the people than of the government. Neighbours were sharing their food with refugees or bringing people over to their home to let them take a shower.”

With the inflow of Syrian refugees, other refugees and migrant groups would also come. “In Athens, I met Afghanis, Pakistanis, Iranians. But to the Greek people, they were all Syrians. And if someone behaved badly, it impacted all of them.”

Once refugee, no longer welcome

Having supported many people during their stay in Athens, A. realised that she would have to make a move herself as well. “I tried to stay as long as I could, to be able to help others. But at some point, the law changed and I couldn’t apply for asylum in Greece. That’s when I came to the UK, in August 2016.”

“It seems like people don’t want to hire Syrians, foreigners.”

A. was granted her status in 2017 and found an apartment in London in 2017. “That year of waiting was the most depressing year of my life. I felt useless. The only thing I could do was reading, communicating with family and friends and helping others with translation – as I already knew how to speak English.” She started applying for jobs before she received her refugee status. “I wanted to see what the job market is like. I’m a workaholic, you see? Not being allowed to work is horrible. But it seems like people don’t want to hire Syrians, foreigners.”

“The misery the Syrian people are going through, does not allow me to ever to be happy.”

Nonetheless, A. keeps her hopes up. “The misery the Syrian people are going through, does not allow me to ever to be happy. But I feel grateful, when compared to others who have more difficult circumstances. I feel strong and confident. The people who are most in need, are those still in the country or trapped in the camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. I just need to find the right opportunity to start my life.”

Learn more about A.’s current life, as she is applying for jobs.

* The interviewee prefers to be anonymous. Her identity is known by RefuTales.


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Wieke Vink

Author: Wieke Vink

Wieke Vink is a human rights lawyer and writer for RefuTales.