Migrants, documents and having a heart

Nazi was born near Elbasan in Albania. He was barely 8 years old when he set out on a long journey. His father hadn’t told him much about it, just that his mother «had gone away» (in fact she had left them) and that in Piraeus, «a beautiful big port with kind people,» everything would be easier. They could not have suspected what trials and what help he would one day encounter in Piraeus. His father’s sister lived in Piraeus with her husband and two children. A hardworking couple, they had one aim, to settle permanently. Things didn’t go well. Nazi’s father couldn’t manage and unemployment led to heavy drinking. Eventually Nazi moved in with his aunt when his father vanished, lost in the grip of alcohol. Nazi was 10 when he started primary school, in the second grade because of his difficulties with Greek. When he finished the fifth grade, he sat special exams and entered the first year of junior high school, where he proved to be popular. His teacher from primary school kept in touch with him after he left and proved to be a valuable friend in the years to come. He did well in junior high school, but he was always dogged by the lack of money. In the summer, he did any work he could find. During the school year, he helped out at a local wine cellar and handed out advertising leaflets in the street. He had already become close friends with a Greek family. He was always welcome at their house; their son was a close friend his own age. The boys shared music, outings, sport and study for two years. Trouble struck during the first year of senior high, when Nazi had to leave school. He wasn’t able to stay any longer with his aunt, and he’d had no sign of his father for years. He needed a place to live and work to pay the rent. The Greek family tried to persuade him not to give up school, or at least to continue at night school and learn a trade. He tried but couldn’t keep it up. It was hard to finish work at 6 p.m., grab a quick shower and a bite to eat, then go on to night school. At 17 years of age, he stopped attending night school. The Greek family kept in touch, offering him company, a meal now and then, and above all, English lessons, which the mother taught him twice a week. Then he met some new friends in Piraeus, at the «house.» A local businessman had rented a space for youngsters like Nazi. It had a few board games, a table tennis table, and a couple of beds for emergencies. The businessman offered it from the kindness of his heart. Though a very religious man himself, he did not force religion on his young charges. He had his own personal reasons for wanting to help them discreetly. At the center, Nazi met a Filippino youth of the same age. They decided to share a room with a small kitchen near the harbor. They worked day and night, and would visit the center in the evening to watch TV and play a few games before going home. Last December, Nazi came of age, and soon discovered that he had committed a crime punishable under Greek law. It was a routine police sweep. Nazi was coming out of the cinema with a few friends when a police officer approached and asked for their identity cards. Nazi ended up in detention for five days. The law is clear. Since he was 18 and not at school, he was to be deported at once. The Greek family went to the Ombudsman for help, while his former primary teacher tried to find any documentation she could from his schools. «Why do they think Albania is the answer for me?» asked Nazi. «I have nobody there and my Greek is better than my Albanian.» Pressure from Greek friends, and the willingness of the police chief not to pursue the matter through official channels, forged a solution. The law allows leeway of one month for those under a deportation order to appeal against the decision and obtain a judicial order that gives them about a year to get their papers in order. On January 12, Nazi got that order. Hopefully, in a year’s time, he will no longer be at risk of deportation.