The event “Refugee Children in the Greek School: Stakeholders and Tools for the support of the school community” was concluded with great success

More than 120 people, teachers, social workers and psychologists of primary and secondary schools of Attica, general, special schools, vocational senior high schools (EPAL) and Centers for Interdisciplinary Assessment and Counseling Support (KEDASY), Refugee Integration Counselors (SEP), representatives of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum and the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs as well as representatives of international organizations and civil society organizations, attended the event organized by the Migrant Integration Center (KEM) of the City of Athens and the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues  (ACCMR) with the support of the ACCMR Working Group for learning and inclusion in school on Friday, December 1, at the Spiritual Center of the City of Athens.

Speakers from central government, local government and civil society, recognizing the existing problems, informed teachers, who are called to support refugee children every day, about useful tools and available mechanisms. At the same time, a live discussion between the audience and the speakers laid the foundations for the planning of new activities with the participation of all parties that can ensure the smoother integration of children with a refugee background in school. The event was coordinated by Dr Dionysia Lambiri, Coordinator of ACCMR of the City of Athens.

“Your wide participation in the event proves your interest in offering to the vulnerable groups you work for and highlights the need for interconnection between all the agencies involved,” said the outgoing Special Advisor for Migrants and Refugees, Melina Daskalaki, in her introductory speech to the teachers. In this context, she emphasized the value of the role of ACCMR and KEM of the City of Athens, two structures that in recent years have been established as key pillars of the integration policy of the City of Athens.

The School at the center of the effort to support teachers, parents and children

In the first panel of the event, Galina Altuhova, Head of the Autonomous Department of Coordination and Monitoring of Refugee Education of the Ministry of Education, Religion and Sports, explained the role of Refugee Education Coordinators – RECs, emphasizing the contribution they can have to the empowerment of parents.

Gelly Aroni, Head of the Integration and Support Unit for Unaccompanied Minors of the General Secretariat of Vulnerable Citizens and Institutional Protection of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum, presented the special needs of unaccompanied minors, noting among other things that the school is the best place to balance the processes of weakening children and went on to say: “Unaccompanied minors who have survived multiple traumas have developed special skills: adaptation, problem solving, goal setting and coping with stress that result in increased mental resilience compared to many of their peers. They are resourceful, determined and mature.”

Useful services and tools from the City of Athens

Ioanna Thoma, Coordinator of the Migrant Integration Center (KEM) of the City of Athens, explained how the services and integration activities of the Municipality’s Migrant Integration Center can help the work of school communities, followed by Lina Lachanioti, Head of the Department of Social Work of the City of Athens, presented the mode of operation and the services of the Minors Protection Team, emphasizing on issues of neglect and abuse of minors. Finally, Marina Tomara, Communication and Digital Media Manager of ACCMR of the City of Athens, presented the possibilities of searching for teachers and other services through the ACCMR digital platform.

Civil society: a powerful ally of the School

Eva Mellou, Head of the ACCMR Working Group for learning and school inclusion from SolidarityNow, presented the possibilities of support for the school community by civil society organizations, Nikoletta Dimitrouka, Head of the Education Department of METAdrasi, presented the Interpretion in Schools program and finally Nikos Gkionakis, Psychologist, described the work done at the Babel Day Center – Mental Health Unit for migrants and refugees, of which he is the Scientific Manager, and underlined the immeasurable value of development of active networks of resources, people and communities that can support the family, the child, but also the teachers themselves.

Also commenting on the very important issue of mental health care in the school context and special education, the event closed with a discussion on the current situation and the gaps that exist in terms of meeting the needs, which was moderated by Michalis Volkidis, Special Secretary of the Association of Special Educational Staff of Special Education of Attica (SEEPEA-A).

The Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues of the City of Athens – ACCMR is supported by the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on the basis of trilateral cooperation with the City of Athens.

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**  The activities of the Migrant Integration Center are implemented with the co-financing of the Eropean Social Fund – ESPA 2014-2020