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  • Bill Loumpouridis

Refugees: It's Complicated

Updated: Mar 31, 2019

Of all the economies in Europe, Greece’s economy was one of the least prepared for the onslaught of refugees that started arriving at the onset of the Syrian civil war in 2010.  Having experienced tremendous economic hardship as a result of the 2008 financial crisis, Greece is only now starting to pull itself out of debt.


Today large numbers of refugees from countries in Africa, the Middle East and Persia continue to flock to Greece.  It is estimated that currently about 1,000 refugees per month are still arriving in Greece, with the largest numbers coming from Afghanistan.  Many of those seeking asylum are fleeing highly autocratic and sometimes brutal regimes.


My Greek parents were in a similar straits during a critical period in their lives in northern Greece.  Having endured the Nazi occupation during WWII and the subsequent civil war in Greece during the late 1940s, my parents’ childhood was defined by war and suffering.  By going back to Greece to help with the refugee crisis there, I felt I was somehow closing the circle and providing hope and a way forward through my Personal Branding program to help refugees build self-esteem and work credentials by creating CVs/Resumes and online job engine profiles.

A refugee family near the Sindos Community Center on a makeshift see-saw

Most of the refugees arriving in Greece arrive with the goal of moving on to Germany or another country in the EU.  But they can get stuck in Greece indefinitely because few other EU countries are accepting refugees on the scale of those arriving in Greece.  As a result any help they can get finding work is greatly appreciated.  The first step in this process to to get professional credentials established both online and on paper.

During my three weeks volunteering for IsraAid at the Sindos Community Center in Northern Greece I met some incredibly courageous souls who have suffered a great deal and yet display a resilience that is truly inspiring.   I was able to make a great deal of progress on helping refugees establish professional brands online by working in groups and in intensive one-on-one sessions.  We built profiles on LinkedIN, Indeed and created CVs (resumes) for employers.  You can see LinkedIN examples by clicking here or here.


But there are nagging questions about my involvement in Greece that I have not resolved. For example, by striving to help refugees achieve a better life, does it encourage others to leave their home country and come to Greece?  What about those that die along the way?  What about the burden it places on an already stressed social services system in Greece?   Is this the best use of my time and resources given all of the need I am seeing in the Chicago area for addressing social and economic inequity?


These questions are not simple or easy to answer.  One of the things I have learned over the past year is that change happens slowly, one person at a time.   I can only hope that one or two of the people I worked go on to be more successful than they would have otherwise, which may then have positive ramifications for others as well as Greece as a whole.


Time will tell...it's complicated.

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