News ID: 238295
Published: 0840 GMT February 02, 2019

Refugees struggle for work amid Greek jobs drought

Refugees struggle for work amid Greek jobs drought
LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP

After escaping poverty in Pakistan and spending two hard years in Greece without family or money, Manassif Raza now proudly stands in his brand new hair salon, receiving his first customers.

"I feel more confident now that I am working, I feel my future will be better," the Pakistani, who is in his twenties, said in the poor Athens neighborhood of Agios Panteleimonas, home to many immigrants and refugees, AFP reported.

His achievement is particularly precious in a nation struggling with severe unemployment, where migrants face an uphill battle to get work.

"Here in Greece you often have to make it by yourself... I had to do a lot of undeclared work: Cleaning houses or hotels, washing dishes in restaurants... I couldn't even afford to rent a house so I was hosted by some friends for a while," Manassif added.

After nearly a decade of crisis and drastic cuts in public spending, Greece's economy is beginning to recover. Unemployment has fallen but is still the highest in the eurozone at 18 percent, and even higher among young people.

Over 70,000 refugees and migrants live in the country in the wake of a mass influx of people, most of whom are from Syria.

Just 10 percent of those in Greece have jobs, said Dimitris Skleparis, a politics lecturer at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, working on refugee issues.

"Refugees in Greece receive no orientation or training support (from the state)," he told AFP.

Fortunately, there are private initiatives. In 2017, Citi Foundation teamed up with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to help refugees start businesses in Greece through local partners.

 

'Everyone has ideas'

 

One of them is chef Moussa, who came to Greece after the deaths of his parents and younger brother in Ivory Coast over five years ago.

"For me, business is first of all, do something that you like," he said in an IRC video, which said he is now opening the first Ivorian restaurant in Athens called ‘Our Home’.

"All of us, we have an idea, we have a dream. I am a refugee I come to another country I try to make my dream come true."

On the day of a visit by AFP, a group of around 20 refugees from Afghanistan, North Africa, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast were sitting in an Athens classroom, learning how to give a PowerPoint presentation.

They will then have two weeks to show their projects to a jury of business people and NGO staff.

Successful applicants are given a startup fee of around €1,000 ($1,140). Over 150 people have been trained by the program.

"It's only a small amount but it's encouraging nonetheless," said Touria, a 31-year-old woman from Morocco.

She also wants to open a restaurant, but at the moment, Greek bank loans are hard to come by, she noted.

Another initiative is Project Layali, meaning ‘my nights’ in Arabic, which helps fund refugee businesses and assists applicants with the onerous task of navigating Greek bureaucracy for permits.

Manassif said he was contacted by them a year ago, while he was still training to be a hairdresser.

The project "got the salon for free through someone we know," said Marine Liakis, who is French-Greek and helped to launch the initiative.

"But to build the business, we had to gather a lot of paperwork, spend hours in administrative offices and secure funds... for a foreigner in Greece, opening a commerce is a real battle," she added.

 

   
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Resource: AFP
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