Mohammed Mirzay Kristina Colovic
In the words of the predominantly Hazara ethnic group of Afghan refugees in Greece, “no one has ever asked us how we feel, what we need, and “what are our problems” (R. Loyal, personal communication, August 1, 2015). The present study will explore the factors that are associated with and predict psychological distress symptoms among the longstanding Afghan refugees community members in Greece from as early as 2003. Presently in Greece there are exceptional and distressing phenomena related to the social factors concerning the mental health of Afghan refugees that fled conflict/insecurity post 2001. Moreover, refugees today are arriving to a country surrounded by its own political conflicts and economic crises, exemplifying a crisis within a crisis, internally and externally.
An important distinction for Afghans in Greece is the legal and social implications between being refugees, that is having obtained a residence permit due to the recognition of a genuine fear of persecution and that of the asylum seekers who are still in the process of achieving such status. In the case of Afghan asylum seekers in Greece the majority are not recognized as refugees and consequently are in a continuous state of uncertainty about their future and establishing a place to identify as home. Adding to this reality is the fact that people arriving to Greece as refugees have waited up 13-years for a reply to their request for asylum and are again facing the same risks today if returned to Afghanistan and other non-EU MS. In the words of Alli, a longstanding Afghan resident of Greece and community member in Athens, “these are the people that even god forgot about” (Alli, personal communication, July10, 2013).
The conversation and frame shifts to the current realities facing Afghans in Greece. The importance lies in the fact(s), that the new emergency directives and policies now under consideration during the humanitarian crisis in Greece and the EU, will impact the longstanding Afghan refugee community members that are again facing a vulnerable and insecure position in concerning their futures’, their rights and the asylum process. As longstanding Afghan refugees of last 10-12 years in Greece are now witness to the surge of new arrivals from their native country, solidifying there is no secure place to call home.
What is at stake here today rises the psychological pressure now facing the old asylum system refugees, that have not received asylum and have lost over ten years of their lives in Greece with the hope of a better future, that in fact are facing ever greater dangers than simply the loss of time, for many it’s the loss of their adolescent years, chances to create a family, right to work, and any form of societal or social standing as resident ‘citizens’ of the state.
The first step to support a better quality of life for refugees in Greece includes acknowledging the normal needs of any human being, their aspirations and hopes. As Afghans refugees have managed to lived in Greece for over the last ten years, many that arrived as children/minors are now young adults working, finding solace, and facilitating newly arriving refugees. That is, many are employed as cultural mediators/interpreters for the same institutions that abandoned them when they arrived. The prospect and psychological impact of having to move again, built another life, learn another language and acculturate in another EU country or being retuned to Turkey and back to Afghanistan is not a fair or humane consideration.