When the government of Greece asked local mayors to help find places for 57,460 refugees to live, Andravida-Kylini mayor Nabil-Iosif Morad came up with a creative solution. He suggested that a coastal resort abandoned for more than five years, LM Village, be converted into a temporary home for refugees to provide sanctuary from camp conditions. A local council agreed to the idea in a vote that was nearly unanimous.
Now LM Village’s 38 bungalows are filled with two families each. About 320 refugees are staying there as they wait to find more permanent homes. The Greek Defence Ministry worked to make the resort habitable again. They renovated rundown buildings and outfitted the area with electricity and drinking water. The refugees have helped clean up the resort and maintain it. They dwell in brightly painted two story apartment homes, have a place to cook traditional food, and can spend time at the beach.
Morad is the first naturalized Greek citizen born in Syria to be elected in Greece. He at first sent clothing donations to the refugee camp at Idomeni, but felt it wasn’t enough and organized the approval and re-opening of LM Village.
Now lawyers visit LM Village to provide free consultations. The new inhabitants of the resort wait for opportunities to interview with the Greek Asylum Service so they can find more permanent homes. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that “more than a dozen” have already moved out of LM Village, headed for new homes in Portugal.
While the refugees wait for housing, they have access to a school and library set up by the Red Cross, as well as donated food. UNHCR said that they are setting up a “prayer space” for Ramadan and a “food distribution system.”
Former restaurant owner Tarek Al-Felou lives in a bungalow with his wife Kindra, two children, and another family. They fled their home near Damascus and are now living in LM Village. Tarek told UNHCR, “In this place we try to forget we are refugees. We can pretend we’re on holiday.”
Kindra told UNHCR, “Here, of course, is better than the other camps…Still, this is temporary. We are still looking for stability.”
Images courtesy of UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis