Seeking refuge through minefields

«Kurds can’t live in Turkey. The police used to come to our house every day. We couldn’t have a normal life there. Some Kurds fight in the mountains and then the Turks want to know where they are, so they go to their houses, take their parents and kill them. Some went to prison and died there. My brother is in prison; he was given 36 years.» Melek, 13, is a Kurd who left Turkey seven years ago. She stayed at the Lavrion reception center as an unaccompanied minor with her siblings. Now her entire family have gained political asylum and live in Anavyssos. For Gul, 13, who also came from Turkey, Greece is a special place where «there is no fascism,» she says. But she misses the rivers, the greenery and her home. She misses the bus trips from Istanbul to the Cappadocia region. Zinar, who has been granted political asylum, remembers the dark years in Istanbul: «While I was studying economics, the police hounded me and so I left. In order to get away, I paid some money to a gang that brings people here from Turkey. We went through minefields to get here. «Now I have a house and I’m studying sociology at Panteion University.» The stories of refugees who have spent time in Lavrion and are trying to put their life on a better footing were published recently in «Building Bridges,» published by Olympiaki Paideia in cooperation with the second and third primary and second junior high schools of Lavrion. An opinion poll taken in Lavrion in February-April 2003 showed that from a sample of 427 people, 83.7 percent thought there were too many foreigners in Greece: 83.6 percent believed foreigners add to unemployment, and 78.5 percent said that foreigners who were not necessary to Greece should be deported. One in two parents and three in 10 teachers said that it would bother them if there was a significant number of foreigners at the school where their child went or they taught, respectively. As for relationships among pupils of different ethnic backgrounds, 32 percent of the sample said their children mixed with children of different color, race or religion, while the rest said they had little or no relations with them.