Day center for the provision of psycho-social support to minor refugees and migrants
According to the Permanent Committee for the psychological health chronic and extended exposure of children and teenagers to war conditions is particularly damaging for their psychology.
In a report by UNICEF it is recorded that children that are born in belligerent situations grow up untimely, whereas one in ten is obliged to labor. Also, about 40% of children are deprived of basic (elementary) education.
Several children express various symptoms such as toxic stress, post-traumatic stress disorder or urinary disorders and some children develop aggressive behavior.
The impact of war in the children’s psyche can last from weeks to years and the trauma consequences overwhelm a significant part of their lives. As a repercussion of this, children and teenagers are susceptible to becoming victims of trafficking, of forced labor and of sexual exploitation.
Moreover, children on the move – children who have left their home, who are constantly on the road, who are mobile within a country or crossing borders, unaccompanied or with an adult accompanying them – become nomads, refugees, asylum applicants or irregular migrants. And that’s the good scenario. The bad scenario is that these children and teenagers are victimized, abducted, exploited or killed.
In any case, the sensitive and vulnerable condition of childhood is multiply challenged and traumatized by all these conditions and causes damages to the children’s soul at a different extend.
The war children and the children on the move are faced not only with the scars accumulated in their souls on the way to Greece but they are confronted with more adversities: social exclusion, access to formal education, everyday living conditions, access to helfare etc.
Since January 2016 and until October 2018 it is estimated that more than 65.000 children entered Greece irregularly. Out of them 9.000 children are considered unaccompanied minors. These numbers grow on a daily basis as arrivals continue mainly to the Greek islands.
Faced with this reality ZEUXIS decided to develop a project to address the needs of this particularly sensitive and vulnerable group: refugee and migrant children and teenagers. By creating the Day Center for the provision of psycho-social support to minor migrants and refugees ZEUXIS provides a range of services of combined psycho-social support.
The Day Center for psychosocial support to minor refugees and migrants aims at:
- Covering the basic and daily needs of minors in order for them to develop the social skills necessary to achieve communication and interaction with others.
- To trace and provide the specialized care to the minors that have been diagnosed with any kind of issues of mental health.
- To protect minors from damaging habits and to provide an environment where the children will be in position to feel confidence and comfort in the frame of a “peer-to-peer” approach but also through psycho-educational activities.
- To provide the appropriate creative stimuli so that the capabilities and skills of minors are enforced and their free time is spent creatively.
- To eliminate the dangers from the social exclusion of children on the move.
- To promote a beneficial and supportive model of integration of minors to the local community.
Moreover, ZEUXIS is in close cooperation with the National Network of Children on the move, under the coordination of the Children’s Rights Ombudsman, as well as with other stakeholders in the field of child protection.
The venue and the services of the Day Center
In a fully equipped and functional space in the center of Athens easily accessible by public transportation we offer:
Psychiatric diagnosis and treatment: Psychiatric diagnosis is done by an experienced child-psychiatrist. No medicines are prescribed in the Day Center. If medicines’ prescription is deemed necessary by the child-psychiatrist, the minor is referred to a public hospital.
Counseling, short-term psychological treatment to minors and parents / guardians: Day Center provides short-term individual or group psycho-therapeutic sessions addressed to minors or adolescents. Furthermore, parent’s counseling and psycho-education is provided.
The Day Center is staffed with a child-psychologist and covers a wide spectrum of diagnosis including assessment and treatment in psychological and learning difficulties.
Social Service: The Day Centers’ Social Service undertakes the keeping of the social history (registration of social elements and requests from beneficiaries), provision of social supportive services, social counseling and support (provision of information to the beneficiaries for their rights and options for access to the public health system, the national educational system and to social benefits), as well as connects beneficiaries with a network of humanitarian organisations and public services in case the minor needs to be referred to the appropriate services.
Educational program: The group program of the Day Center is addressed to children who live in shelters or in the community aiming to help them communicate in Greek and English orally and in written. Further to this is to offer a creative alternative for minors to spend their free time and help them develop their social skills.
For this we have created a program that consists of many different activities which are creative and therapeutic. The program includes various activities on a weekly basis designed for different groups every day.
All of our services and activities are facilitated by Interpreters / Cultural Mediators.
Some of the activities are:
- Greek language learning group
- English language learning group
- Theatrical game group
- Movies group
- Psycho-kinetic expression group
Shelter for unaccompanied minor girls “OIKOS” by ZEUXIS.
Currently it is estimated that in Greece there are 3050 unaccompanied minors (UAMs) out of whom 96.2% are boys and 3.8% are girls.
Almost 42% of those, 1280 children, are homeless, in non-formal housing projects (squads) or in unknown locations and they are faced with multiple dangers such as sexual exploitation, exposure to trafficking, forced labor etc.
Many of those UAMs have not not even be registered whereas the vast majority of them has no access to formal education, their health is not being monitored, they do not have access to regular treatment if needed, they have not been vaccinated etc.
The rest UAMs (the ones that stay temporarily at some sort of accommodation) usually stay, waiting for their turn to be transferred to a shelter, in Hotspots (i.e. Moria), in protective custody (in police stations) or other temporary establishments.
It is easily understood that the dangers that anyhow threaten a UAM become more critical for minor girls as they are more vulnerable and more exposed to all sorts of threats for their physical and psychological well-being and safety.
These girls, like minor boys as well, are in urgent need of a home where they will feel and be safe and protected and where their physical, mental and social development can be ensured.
By identifying this gap in available shelters and places for UAMs in general and especially for UAM girls in particular, we decided in ZEUXIS to create a home for them.
Thus, we set up a home fully equipped and appropriately designed, staffed with experts to provide a shelter to 21 UAM girls. We decided to call it “OIKOS” from the Greek word that means “Home”, as our aspiration was to create a home and not a “shelter” for them.
Our OIKOS is staffed by experienced and highly qualified professionals who are passionate with their work:
- Social workers
OIKOS operates 24/7, so there is always someone present (at least two members of staff at the same time 24/24) to attend the needs of the girls.
What do we offer to our girls?
- Bed and personal space (toilet, showers etc)
- Clothes and shoes
- Personal hygiene items
- Medical care
- Non formal education and recreational activities in house
- Access to formal education
- Educational and recreational activities (excursions, visits to museums, attendance to theatrical plays, concerts etc)
- Monthly allowance for their personal expenses
- Monthly card for their transportation with public transportation
- Psycho-social support
At the same time we provide for a number of issues such as ensuring the issuing of a Personal Registry Number of Social Welfare for the girls, vaccination (which is a pre-requisite for their registration to formal education), registration to formal education and following up on their progress at school, provision of legal aid regarding asylum procedures, family reunification procedures etc.
Our ambition is that OIKOS:
- Ensures the protection of our girls from physical and psychological threats providing them with a safe space based on the provisions of the legal framework as well as the best practices
- Is a permanent care measure (as opposed to a temporary one), having as a priority the reunification with family members (when and if they exist) or the provision of support for integration for those girls who will stay in Greece
- Assures that the girls enjoy their rights to the fullest extent possible in order for them to develop their personalities
- Works in close cooperation with the competent State authorities (National Center of Social Solidarity) and the Office of the Public Prosecutors all over the country (they are the ones that place the girls to our OIKOS)
- Cooperates and is interconnected with other civil society organisations
OIKOS was created with funding from the Swiss Confederation. It is now funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, with the co – financing of Greece and the European Union.