A Syrian refugee sits in front of a climbing wall at an abandoned school in Greece. Volunteers have been using this old school to house refugee families for the last three months.
In the stories about refugees who have fled to Greece, one word comes up often—stuck. Fleeing conflict in Syria, Afghanistan, and other countries, the asylum-seekers have hit roadblocks and closed borders.
While the flow of refugees has slowed since last year, it hasn’t stopped. More than 1,300 refugees arrived in Greece in June, adding to a total of about 57,000. Many camps are full, and it’s increasingly difficult for refugees to find lodging as they wait to continue their journeys beyond the Grecian borders.
But now, one group of refugees has found a new temporary home in an unused school in Athens.
The campus in Athens was abandoned in 2013, but rediscovered this spring by a group of volunteers, who converted it into housing. In addition to giving refugees a place to live, the volunteers serve meals, give Greek language lessons, and provide equipment for the children to play basketball and soccer in the playground.
“You don’t have good feelings when you live with this,” says Aris Messinis, a photographer who lives in Greece and who documented refugee life in the school.
Messinis says at first, it was difficult for him to take pictures, and he was particularly forbidden to take pictures of the women. “The first time it was difficult to approach them because everyone was afraid,” he says. But with time came results, and he plans to return to the school soon to update his work and see how the residents are doing.
“We need to see these kinds of actions from real volunteers,” he says.
This isn’t the first case of a government building being repurposed to house refugees. Earlier this year, an unused prison in the Netherlands was converted into refugee housing.
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