CULTURE

Metoikos — a new voice for many people

A new voice for migrants and refugees will make itself heard this week when Metoikos, a multilingual periodical, hits the streets for the first time. A joint effort by local foreign communities, it is the brainchild of the Athens News Agency (ANA), as part of the European EQUAL program, which targets discrimination and inequality. The first issue is in Greek and English, with brief summaries of the contents in Albanian, Arabic and Turkish. Some ANA staff will assist during the initial pilot stage of four issues, but 20 of the 23 people who worked on the first Metoikos are foreign-born residents of Greece. Members of the editorial team met Kathimerini English Edition this week on the eve of publication to talk about Metoikos and what they hope to achieve. Adla Shashati, born in Sudan to a Greek mother and Sudanese father, pursued media and cultural studies in England, and is involved in organizations working to better the lot of migrants, refugees and women in Greece. She has been working on the cultural section of Metoikos. «What I want the magazine to do,» she says, «is to make the Greek public aware that these people are not just foreigners, that they have something to offer. I think this is necessary because at the moment they are presented rather negatively, to put it mildly.» Yousef Azer, who teaches chemistry at an Arabic school in Athens, is president of the Union of Egyptian Workers. He emphasizes the intra-communal nature of the project. «I think this will be an opportunity for migrant communities to mingle, for each community to get to know the problems of the other communities,» he explains. There are already some migrant newspapers and magazines, but they only target a specific public. This magazine is directed at all migrants. Integration and dignity He stresses the need of people who have left their own countries in search of a better life to integrate into Greece, and to live here in dignity. «Metoikos isn’t only for us,» says Azer. «It will help Greeks know more about the migrants here, so we can all tackle racism and xenophobia.» That’s a fairly tall order, which Metoikos seems determined to tackle head-on. The first issue of the magazine highlights the struggle for the green card, seen from the point of view of those who are forced to scramble to produce a bewildering variety of documents for unrealistic deadlines while the authorities keep moving the goal posts. A two-page Kaleidoscope section offers comments on the news. A migrant doctor documents the medical problems of refugees. The Bulgarian community has contributed a guide to living in Greece. And Dimitra Malliou writes about the special difficulties faced by Albanian women, who are even further down the social ladder than their men. Lack of language skills and the fact that many of them work in private homes leads to isolation. Saddest of all, while bringing up other people’s children, the women rarely have time to see their own. Malliou declares this to be the responsibility of the community, which she calls on to help. Metoikos is free, at least for the first four pilot issues. «We don’t know how it will develop,» says Shashati. «We hope we can make it more pages.» What about finances? ANA journalist Xenia Theofanidou, who is coordinating the pilot stage, explains: «The first four issues carry free advertising for various migrant businesses. We hope that eventually their owners will want to place paid advertisements.» In her editorial she writes, «The ultimate aim is for the magazine to become a self-financing social enterprise operating on a cooperative basis.» Metoikos will be distributed this weekend at the Anti-Racism Festival at the Ilissia Park and at similar events. Good luck to a welcome new enterprise.