For the migrant and refugee adolescent and youth population of Greece, their collective experience is one of straddling borders: between home countries and new countries, between childhood and adulthood, between hope and cynicism.
"We feel safety here compared to the bombs. At least here you can walk around late and not be afraid for your life. But here there is so much uncertainty," says one Syrian female youth in Veria, Thessaloniki.
Over 18,000 of the migrants and refugees stranded in Greece — 30 percent — are adolescents and young people between the ages of 15 and 24. These young women and men demonstrate immense potential for positive change, but their needs are often overlooked.
Stressful conditions and a complex political climate have resulted in a growing sense of concern among young refugees and migrants, who are at risk of losing all sense of hope and engaging in negative ways of coping with stress.
Along with the Norwegian Refugee Council, we conducted focus groups with 120 young people from 11 different countries who are now residing in Greece. We sought to learn more about them and to provide an outlet for their concerns. The report also offers policy and programmatic recommendations for the government of Greece, donors and other NGOs.
The young people we spoke with shared that they want more access to education, skill-building and better healthcare, and have a strong desire for acceptance and connection. They are motivated to contribute, yet have few chances to do so.
"We are bored of our empty time. Can you give us something? I would like to learn language and then help others," says a Syrian male youth in Oreokastro, Thessaloniki. "Even if I have no salary I will participate and I will support. Just let our time be full with something."
Since August 2015, Mercy Corps has been working in refugee camps and informal settlements in Greece. We also partner with local organizations to provide workshops for at-risk youth, offering everything from emotional support to life skills education to English and Greek language classes.
Mercy Corps will continue to provide and expand these services for as long as young people need them.
Hear more from these adolescents and young people by downloading our report "Don't Forget Us: Voices of Young Refugees and Migrants in Greece." The report was written by Mercy Corps and the Norwegian Refugee Council.