As a major transit and destination country for forcibly displaced migrants from the Middle East and North Africa, Greece remains as a Tier 2 trafficking country, with its government not fully meeting the Trafficking Victims Protections Act’s minimum standards but they are making significant efforts to meet those standards.
Available data suggest that up to 83% of missing children cases in the EU take place in the context of migration. Migration itself is one of the leading risk factors for criminal forms of exploitation such as human trafficking, forced labour and modern slavery, with women and children migrants having the highest levels of vulnerability. In addition, lack of appropriate legal documents (e.g visas, asylum cards, residence permits), is one of the principal vulnerabilities for trafficking victims worldwide.
Goodwill Caravan holistic package of emergency humanitarian protection projects seek to remove these key vulnerabilities. This week we would like to share a success story from one our beneficiaries.
Laura is a 24-year-old single mother from Democratic Republic of Congo. She left DR Congo in 2018 after a close relative had physically abused and raped here. She reported the event to the police, but they refused to offer her any assistance. Feeling hopeless and at risk of continued abuse, she and her friend decided to leave the country. With the assistance of smugglers, they travelled first to Turkey where she lived in a traffickers’ house for three to four months. Here the traffickers forced her to have sexual relations with men in exchange for the accommodation and some food. She managed to escape and made it to the island of Samos in Greece in 2019 and stayed there in a refugee camp for over a year.
After her initial asylum claim was rejected, she decided to move to Athens but had no place to stay and ended up mostly living homeless in parks over the next year but did occasionally stay at houses where she did household chores. During this period, she got pregnant. Early on in the pregnancy, a woman offered her a household job which offered some stability, but Laura had to leave in the last months of her pregnancy because she could no longer work. Before giving birth in early 2022, she stayed with a friend who lived in government assisted housing that did not allow guests. After the birth of her child, she could not return to this house and went back to living in a park.
When Goodwill Caravan’s social workers first came into contact with Laura in April 2022, she was homeless with a new-born baby, had no income, was struggling to find food and other basic necessities, lacked appropriate legal documents, and was suffering from untreated Hepatitis C. Due to this long list of vulnerabilities, both she and her new-born were at heightened risk of being exploited and harmed by others. We treated this case as an emergency priority.
First and most importantly, we provided them with safe and supportive living accommodations at the Goodwill Caravan Shelter House. Since they joined the shelter in late April 2022 there has been a significant improvement on all aspects of their lives.
Legal: When Laura’s case arrived to us, lawyers at another non profit had already begun to offer her support. We have been in close collaboration with this legal team, assisting them with gathering all the required documentation. In June 2022, Laura had an interview for appeal to the second rejection, and thankfully she was approved to receive an asylum card again. As for her baby boy, we are in communication with the municipality of Livadia, where he was born, in order to get a birth certificate with his name. Overall, the shelter’s central location in Athens has made it possible for Laura to attend the legal appointments, have access to asylum services, and prepare correctly for the interview.
Psychological: The long set of challenges that Laura has had to endure has made her extremely vulnerable, especially her psychological state. She experiences intense anxiety, as she does not have a supportive framework from friends or family in Greece and she is unable to integrate smoothly into society. Being in a safe environment and seeing her legal case progress has made a notable improvement on her psychological wellbeing. The connections she has made with other women at the shelter and the support she has received from them has improved her confidence and self-esteem. When she feels ready, she will be referred for psychological support.
Distribution: Laura receives weekly dry food supplies and monthly clothing and shoe supplies from Goodwill Caravan’s Distribution Hub. We have also provided her and her baby with a stroller, a bathtub, blankets, and toys. Once per month she also receives baby powder (as she cannot breastfeed) and pampers.
Educational: Laura started attending English classes in the shelter with the volunteers of Hellenic Youth Participation, and she has improved her language skills. The most helpful part of it is that she can have her baby with her during the class.
Medical: We helped Laura confirm her Hepatitis C diagnosis during the standard medical examination that we perform before the integration of each shelter beneficiary. We referred her to the Hepatology Clinic of Red Cross for assistance, but she continued to face difficulties in receiving treatment due to lack of AMKA or PAYPA. After receiving her asylum card, Goodwill Caravan assisted her in accessing medical examination and treatment at the hospital. As for the baby, he has received all of his scheduled vaccinations from the Doctors of the World with the assistance of a GWC medical case worker. Once every 3 weeks, we book him an appointment in Agia Sofia Hospital to examine the possibility of Hepatitis C and to check his development.