ATHENS – Thirty-one refugees granted asylum status in Greece took part in a unique for Europe training on how to deal with forest fires and emergencies, in the presence of several officials, ambassadors, and EU representatives in Schisto, west of Athens, on Friday.
The initiative, funded by the NextGenerationEU through Greece’s national recovery plan ‘Greece 1.0’, was the fourth such exercise to take place in Greece, and included field training and Greek language lessons. It was also the first time refugees serving as trainers from the facilities in Malakassa, NE Attica, took part.
Friday’s exercise brought to a close the first phase of a Ministry of Migration and Asylum project, which has created four teams for emergencies: on the island of Samos, in Malakassa, Ritsona (mainland, near Chalkida) and at Schistos. Half of the participants (50%) were female refugees.
Part of the training, the ministry said, included three unique evacuation plans (for Malakassa, Ritsona, Schistos), which the refugees themselves created during their trainings. Malakassa’s team includes the first trainee who is handicapped, with the help of protocols by the Fire Brigade.
Trainees completed a total of 16 field exercises, 256 training hours, and 160 hours of Greek lessons. A total of 102 refugees and 50 trainers took part in these.
Migration Deputy Minister Sophia Voultepsi said that the refugees participating “showed a great interest in learning the language and being trained to face such difficult circumstances, to learn to protect themselves and to protect others.”
International Organization of Migration-Greece head Gianluca Rocco said that the initiative of such an exercise is unique in all of Europe and is part of the integration procedures held in Greece through the EU recovery fund. He said that integration is a process that includes understanding Greece’s values and contributing to Greek society, which the trainings fulfil.
Also present, besides chief Fire Brigade coordinator Kalliopi Saini, were Deputy Representative at UNHCR-Greece Jason Hepps, representatives of the embassies of the United States, the Netherlands, and France, and representatives of the EU Agency for Asylum and the European Commission, among others.