“We can’t understand the teachers — that’s why no one went to school yesterday”

Since January of this year, 38% of new arrivals to Greece have been children. Yet we rarely hear what they have to say.

Child participation is one of the core principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which asserts that children and young people have the right to freely express their views on all matters affecting them, and to have their opinions taken into account.

“…Please think about us — we are children. We didn’t do 
 anything to make them not like us or not help us.” — Afghan girl, 13–15

Drawing of a house and quotes from an Afghan boy and a Syrian boy
Almost every child who spoke of dreams for the future focused on the desire for a comfortable house that they could live in with their family. Reunification with family members in other parts of the EU was also a common aspiration, while others wished to go back to their country of origin. Some children, especially unaccompanied minors, expressed concerns about their future prospects because their education has been interrupted and they are uncertain where they will end up.

In November, Internews and Save the Children delivered a series of workshops designed to help children in refugee sites near Athens express themselves in creative ways. Syrian children in Ritsona site and Afghan children in Oinofyta site participated.

The results of the workshops were featured in a special issue of In The Loop, a weekly publication that connects the humanitarian community and the people affected by the EU refugee crisis.

The publication is based on interactions with 68 children and young people in Greece, as facilitated by Internews Refugee Liaison Officers.

By having children tell stories through drawings, photography and other creative means, and not consider these as the end result of a creative workshop, but as a source of valuable information, Internews was able to document of valuable feedback, which was analysed and shared in relevant humanitarian meetings.

The children expressed a desire to communicate to the world the conditions in which they live. Many highlighted the discomfort and humiliation they feel at having to stay in tents and containers, being unable to take warm showers and eating the same food every day. The importance of education and recreation were also common themes, and children agreed the sites do not offer enough child-friendly activities and places to play.

Child participants were consulted on key decisions, including the selection of activities, the outcomes of their participation, the design of materials they produced, and the platforms used to share their work. The children agreed to share their views and experiences in the hope that decision-makers will listen to what they have to say.

Drawing of a school and quotes from young Syrians
The children shared stories of conflict and hardship pre-flight, and of surviving the perilous journey by boat from Turkey to Greece. They were eager to convey that the reason they left their country of origin was not because they wanted to live in Europe, but because they were forced to flee.

Translators Without Borders translated the issue into Farsi and Arabic — as well as Greek — and copies were provided to the participating children and their parents, as well as humanitarians and Greek authorities.

Photo of a woman walking with two children through a camp and quotes from Afghan and Syrian children
“We want the head of the European Union to see our magazine,” said one Afghan boy, (aged 13–15).

As part of this pilot project for Communicating with Children, Internews produced a report — “When children talk, are we listening?” — to document the participatory methods we used to support children to express themselves.

In The Loop explores the concerns and perceptions of people affected by the EU refugee crisis. Internews documents online and offline feedback gathered from refugees and migrants on a daily basis. By providing analysis of this feedback, the review aims to strengthen accountability and close the feedback loop by giving voice to affected persons.

Current, future and past issues of In the Loop can be accessed in English, Arabic, Greek and Farsi on the News That Moves website. Subscribe at this link to receive the weekly issues of In The Loop in email: http://eepurl.com/b-Ls4H

Internews’ work in Greece is part of the Mixed Migration Platform, with support from Save the Children UK and the Open Society Initiative for Europe. Victoria Jack was Humanitarian Data Manager for Internews.