Despite shelter in Greece, Yazidis struggle to integrate

Although Ibrahim Hondeta’s Yazidi family reached Greece a year ago after fleeing persecution, they still fear being the target of violence and are fighting to keep their community together.
Having run the gauntlet of invasion, combat, killings and enslavement by IS extremists in Iraq, the members of this religious minority have found temporary shelter in the agricultural region of Serres in northern Greece.
The camp they have been allocated to is one of the best in the country. The grounds are clean and there is a playground for the children.
Many hope to be reunited with other Yazidis stranded in Greece, but with the country struggling to manage more than 50,000 refugees and migrants stranded on its territory, that is not always an option. “Creating a camp just for Yazidis is neither possible nor viable,” said a Greek official.
Greece’s policy is to move eligible refugees from overcrowded island camps — where they undergo identity checks upon arrival from Turkey — to the mainland, where more comfortable accommodation is available in better camps, UN-funded flats and hotels. But the Yazidis oppose this policy.
This is partly down to fear of other communities. They had a scare earlier this year, when a Yazidi celebration in Kilkis, another part of northern Greece, descended into violence between Arabs and Kurds.
“(The Arabs) threatened to kill us. They hunted us down with knives and clubs. We had to hide in a forest to save our lives,” says 55-year-old Hondeta, sitting on a bench outside the camp.
Since that time, they have frustrated the Greek government’s attempts to bring in non-Yazidis.
They recently blocked the transfer of 60 Congolese and Senegalese mothers and their children to the Serres camp, the government official said.
In Athens, a migration ministry source said every effort is being made to facilitate and protect the Yazidis from possible harm.
The suffering the Yazidis have endured explains why community elders in Serres have written to the migration ministry to officially request that the camp be assigned to Yazidis alone.
“Everybody knows about our people’s genocide. Europe must protect us,” says Hajdar Hamat, a self-styled spokesman for the Yazidis at the camp. — AFP

Vassilis Kyriakoulis