I travelled to Athens recently as part of the U.K. delegation to the Greek Solidarity Campaign. We met with many people, from Government ministers to trade union officials and refugee groups to forge solidarity and links, to exchange information, to assess what is happening on the ground, and to better understand the risks emerging from the far right and ultra nationalists. In Greece that means the Golden Dawn. At the moment there is a trial taking place involving leading members of Golden Dawn they were charged after the September 2013 murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas. Some members of our delegation met with Pavlos’ mother.
Greek solidarity market
We visited a ‘Solidarity market’. These are markets ‘without middle men’. They represent an interesting and fundamental way of challenging capitalism whilst developing support, resources and sustainability for people in need.
Greek solidarity markets were set up after the financial crash and have continued. They are still very much needed. After the ‘crash’ obviously Greeks were rendered extremely poor. Buying food was becoming a struggle. Supermarkets continued to operate but people couldn’t afford the prices. In a supermarket you could expect to pay 6 or 7 Euros for olive oil, however the ‘without middle men markets’ can sell the same for around €3.5. The switch to markets without middle men made great sense.
Apart from reducing the price of food and allowing people to buy produce at a cheaper price, it also supports the smaller trader, those Greeks who went back to small scale agricultural production.
In addition to the basic selling and buying process, Greek social services operate at these markets and are able to ‘passport’ people to other support. There are also psychological support staff at the markets who can offer direct support to those suffering mental health problems. Some people who have experienced significant problems are helped to rehabilitate and reintegrate by fulfilling a role in the market.
When Greece joined the EU they lost around 70% of their agricultural production as they were able to buy in supplies. When they opted into the euro zone this capacity dropped again.
During austerity, when no jobs could be found, people had started gradually returning to the land and agricultural production. In Greece only two ‘millers’ were left. A whole new industry sprang up disassembling mills and these were exported to Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia.
The without middle men markets are an inspiration. The building of solidarity goes way beyond the UK’s current concept of food banks, which are clearly needed. But the Greek approach has demonstrated something far different, one that builds capacity, resilience and dignity.
RLS-Athens, helping refugee children
Efi reunites refugee children who are in Athens with their families across Europe. The project she is part of is supported by the Greek Solidarity Campaign. It’s doesn’t just touch my heart, it reaches into my chest and squeezes it!
It is an incredibly difficult job on so many levels. All the time working against the clock and with minimum money.
We visited RLS-Athens. A project that runs on a shoestring and helps to get unaccompanied refugee children reunited with their families right across the EU. Here is what Efi the project worker wrote and what she has asked for our help,
Thank you all for coming to see us today and for your generous donations.
Unfortunately, you came in a time of the year when we are cutting down our salaries and are being prepared to let go people who have been working with us since the beginning.
Even under these adverse circumstances, we still want to continue the work we are doing and are more dedicated than ever. Our project costs Euro 80,000 per year and only covers employment costs for 4 members of staff, basic clinic costs and some costs for the volunteer lawyers.
On Monday 17 June 2019, 10,000 judges, solicitors, barristers, members of Parliament together with friends, family and colleagues will take part in the 10 km LONDON LEGAL WALK 2019 across London to raise funds for the many organisations committed to providing free legal services to people who need them but cannot pay.
Past donations have funded the running of the local operation and the coordination of over 500 open cases and have assisted more than 1,500 individuals from all over the world.
RLS work is increasingly focusing on family reunification for refugees trapped in Greece whose parents, children or siblings may be in other countries. The free support of experienced professionals to resolve these situations is essential and invaluable, and so is the existence of a small committed team in Athens to coordinate their work. For these achievements, RLS has been awarded the Lexis Nexis Pro Bono Award 2018.
The issue of immigration and refugees may have recently come off the attention of mainstream media, but for many thousands of people their difficult and often complex situation has not gone away and remains shamefully inhumane.
Please DONATE as generously as you can by following this link and let your friends and colleagues know.
No donation is too large, no donation is too small. All the money you donate will go to RLS Athens for service delivery. Donations from UK tax payers are eligible to Gift Aid.
Please share it with anyone that knows and trusts you, we are counting on these funds very much. Please feel free to let me know also if you have any more ideas about how we could collect core funding for running costs of 6 months- a year.
Thank you for your generosity,
I hope to see you soon,
Efthymia (Efi) Stathopoulou
Project Coordinator, RLS-Athens
What can we learn from the left about Europe
We had several detailed meetings with minsters from Syriza. We were grateful for their time as they prepare for a General Election. They gave us a clear message for U.K and European leftists to be ‘progressive together for the greater social good’. This was a clear ‘policy’, from Syriza. In order to have a progressive, social, citizen focused EU we need to stand together across national boundaries – as left progressives. Another Europe is possible, one that prioritises the social agenda and gives supremacy to the inalienable human rights of the individual and to the power collectivism and solidarity. What part the U.K. can play in that remains to be seen.
The Greek Solidarity Campaign would welcome more members you can join via Greecesolidarity.org they are keen to attract more people to visit.
A further report is due to be published in the next edition of CLPD Labour Briefing.