The story of the Migrants social center in Thessaloniki

The Migrants Social Centre is a multifunctional space of solidarity in practice towards immigrants and at the same time serves as an open social center and meeting point for various movements and political resistance groups.

The Centre caters to the needs of immigrants, homeless, unemployed, low-income pensioners and locals in general, who have the opportunity to meet basic and social needs. This extends from food and clothing to socializing in the clubroom of the Centre. It is also open to local and foreign collectivities, such as theatrical groups or other alternative schemes that can’t afford much money to rent a place in order to operate. And is accessed by both Greeks and immigrants (especially children) who lack educational opportunities.

It was established in 2004 on the initiative of Antiracist Initiative of Thessaloniki and since 2009 it is housed in a historic area of the city center. Beyond the Antiracist Initiative, its 3 floors currently house approximately 20 movements, labor, migration and social collectives, assemblies and other initiatives, like theatrical and cultural groups.

Initiatives of the Migrants Social Centre also include voluntary actions of practical solidarity groups such as “Out of the Classroom” that offers free courses in Greeks and immigrants (Greek and foreign language lessons, additional teaching to Junior High School and High School students). It also runs:

  • a Solidarity Kitchen that offers meal and companionship to hundreds of people every weekend.

  • Room39 that gathers and distributes relief items and food to refugees and homeless.

  • A Legal Support Group for refugees and immigrants and many other temporary or permanent activities.

Other collectivities that reside independently in the Migrants Social Centre are Indigenous People of Biafra, the Network for Unemployed and Precarious Workers, the Network for Political and Social Rights, Ethical, Technological & Idealistic Association the Theatrical and Tango Group of Immigrants’ Place, and much more.

We are reaching out to citizens and other local organizations through a dedicated website and our Facebook page, which includes all information that needs to be transferred to people in need. Additionally, we keep cooperating with collectivities all over the city and not only with these that are housed in the Migrants Social Centre, like the local social solidarity clinic.

In the Solidarity Kitchen, people who currently offer their services come from those who initially asked to have access to lunch on weekends. Also, we would like to highlight the contribution of Room 39’s members, who deliver meals to homeless people all over the city center on bikes. It is the only initiative in Thessaloniki that serves food directly to the public spots where homeless people live every night.

It is a completely self-organised place, depending exclusively on volunteers’ work and all of us who participate in it. Financially, the Social Centre is solely supported by donations of the participating groups and the profits of the clubroom.

Today, the Migrants Social Centre faces many financial challenges, putting at risk its continuity and operations.

Our Refugee Hostel was for years the only hosting structure for immigrants in Thessaloniki, offering free accommodation to 70 adults and children. When the Public Electricity Company cut the power in the hostel due to high debt, we reconnected the supply to our name. The existing debt will stop all activities and solidarity action housed and supported by the Centre. This includes the solidarity courses for locals and immigrants, the kitchen, the collection and distribution of relief items. Therefore, we address solidarity collectives in Greece and abroad, asking for contributions to repay this debt.

Comments

Great work..

Alberto's picture

Super-interesting, @To-Steki , thanks for sharing. 

Can you say more about the legal and organizational structure of the Center? You write that it is "completely self-organised place, depending exclusively on volunteers’ work". But there must be a legal entity behind it, because, as you write "When the Public Electricity Company cut the power in the hostel due to high debt, we reconnected the supply to our name". Who do you mean by "we" in this sentence? Is there a registered Migrants Social Center NGO?

I am asking because we found some highly effective groups in Greece who have no legal existence at all: they are just spontaneous aggregations of citizens. I guess your local social solidarity clinic is one of them, certainly there is one in Helliniko, in the Athens area, which we visited last year. 

Good luck with your efforts! And just one more thing: I could not find a "Donate" link on your website (I can't read Greek, but you have Google Translate integration and a English home page). 

Thanks

To-Steki's picture

Thanks for your nice words!

We just have a typical legal existence, as a "Union", in order to be able to sign rent contracts, public services bills etc. But in fact it has nothing to do with our real function and work. 

We will add a "donate" button in a renewed version of our site that we are building now; as I said, till now, we had no need for such. 

Is there a social solidarity clinic in Thessaloniki?

Noemi's picture

Welcome on board, @To-Steki, I'm curious if the clinic is another initiative or just a metaphor you use? The many informal or established groups you mention makes it seem like Thessaloniki is very busy place (@Aravella_Salonikidou's story confirms this!), it's just that I'm not sure if this is a real physical place or not.. 

Thanks!

About social clinic

To-Steki's picture

Yes, in fact there is a social clinic in Thessaloniki. You can find more info here http://www.kiathess.gr/en/. I shall mention that is a different group from us; although we work together very often. 

@Noemi is true! Very busy

Aravella Salonikidou's picture

@Noemi I mention @To-Steki in my story but it was before it's participation so I must correct the name and tag it. About 6 months the people from Steki made the delivery of all of those backpacks (that I was preparing) to Eidomeni. And we have had a very good cooperation. By the way, in Thessaloniki there are many active and solidarity groups. In their own way but active and helpful! This list is in greek but maybe you can have an idea.It's a short mapping of Thessaloniki's Municipality area  http://www.thessaloniki.gr/userfiles/file/Dioikisi(NeosOEY)/AytTmEthelNeolaias/LISTA1842016.pdf

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