Last in line


“In Turkey there were 40 of us in a small, covered truck”

“In Turkey there were 40 of us in a small, covered truck”

We met Raz in the afternoon of Sunday, January 21, 2020 at the We Need Books in Kipseli, Athens. He had gone to arrange Greek lessons, which he intended to start. “I am forced to. For my papers, for the language test. So as to bring my wife here,” he told me in fluent Greek.

More than 75,000 asylum seekers arrived in Greece in 2019 alone, either by crossing the northern border with Turkey via the Evros River or by crossing the Aegean from Turkey on boats, hoping to land on one of the Greek islands.

About 40% of the asylum seekers are men.

In times of crisis, “vulnerability” has become a key factor in managing and prioritizing the needs of asylum seekers and new arrivals. According to the mandate that the most vulnerable should have priority, the needs of refugee women and children are rightly highlighted and met − to some degree − by humanitarian aid and the state. The differentiation between vulnerable and non-vulnerable groups, however, (as well as the “ethical” dilemma as to who is eligible for assistance or not), create new vulnerabilities and allow groups to emerge from the wider refugee population whose needs are overlooked, and whose needs we do not fully understand.

We intend to investigate and try to better understand the current challenges which a less visible category of refugee and immigrant populations face: that of young male refugees. Our investigation will go back to 2015, when the humanitarian and political crisis in Greece began for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, but we will also take into account the decades preceding when Greece was already a host country for migrant populations.

    • What does life have in store for a young man seeking asylum, who is trapped for months on one of the Aegean islands, constantly hearing the word “perímene” (wait) while trying to secure his daily survival?
    • How do the smugglers operate? Who are the infamous katsakabar / dar al and how does payment for their services actually work
    • What strategies do young men use to survive in their daily lives − young men who are undocumented and often find themselves “off the radar”?
    • What’s it like to live in a masafarhana, an apartment you share with up to 20 other men for an unknown period of time?
    • What kind of social and emotional relationships do these young men form, and what are the consequences of their long-term marginalization?
    • How can lack of legal status and necessary documents lead to labor exploitation, even to extreme forms of violence and abuse?

These are just some of the questions we will try to explore through this Publication.

“Last in Line” attempts to bring young male refugees to the forefront – a demographic category among the refugee population which continues to be marginalized, even though organizations and health professionals active in the field recognize their particular needs and have emphasized that a significant number of them suffer from mental health issues. Many times, as a result of constant exclusion, they fail to obtain and assert even their basic needs.

For the “Last in Line” Publication, we combine field research both on the mainland and on the Aegean islands with the production and publication of rich audiovisual material, data analysis and visualization, men’s stories and portraits, sketches and podcasts.
In an often competitive and introverted media and academic environment, we believe that only collaborative research and interdisciplinary approaches can meet the challenges which currently face our society. For this Publication we aim to blur the lines between fields that appear to have little in common and to fully benefit from their knowledge and processes.

In the coming months all the content (published in Greek and English) will be the result of the cooperation of an experienced team consisting of journalists, photo journalists, anthropologists, artists, filmmakers, translators, and so on.

For this Publication we begin our journey without experts. Our starting point is the common assumption that our shared interest in the subject and cooperation will help us to illuminate aspects that are otherwise not taken into account; aspects which, however, do not suggest an “answer” to the question we ask, but offer the possibility to ask new questions and address new concerns.

The dominant discourse about male refugees which is put forth by the media, often reinforces negative narratives that portray them as a kind of core threat to the state and to society that must be removed. On the other hand, sympathizers tend to dramatize the situation to such an extent that the entire refugee population is presented as a part of humanity which is totally helpless.

Part of this Publication aims to explore how these representations affect the reality of male refugees, as well as to challenge the dominant narratives which refer to the entire refugee population.

“Last in Line” is not an attempt to compare and contrast the needs of male refugees with those of female refugees. On the contrary, in a framework where the management of the refugee issue is constantly failing and where conditions are becoming increasingly detrimental to the entire population, putting thousands of lives at risk every day, we believe that the failure to understand and highlight one group’s problems can have significant negative effects on other groups.

Therefore, in an attempt to outline the situation which young male refugees experience, we recognize the complexities and conflicts among the different groups of people who cross the border – as well as the officials, the humanitarian groups and other factors. The stories we present here are stories that emerge from these encounters and suggest a complex reality.

In order to approach the subject of our research thoroughly, we take into account all of the various factors that contribute to the story history. From the people who staff international organizations and NGOs , to government officials, to people who work in related fields and academics.

Above all, however, we reach out to the protagonists of this reality: people – whether they’ve arrived in Greece in recent years or whether they’ve lived here for some time – they are the ones who experience the effects of a system that always puts them last in line.

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