For months, hotelier Andreas Vasileiou felt helpless as he watched the news of refugees living in dire conditions across Greece. He wanted to offer them something better, a place where they would feel welcome. So this spring, his family-run, seaside hotel on Greece’s second-largest island of Evia changed its clientele.

35-year-old Menar, a Syrian refugee who fled Syria with her 3 children, teaches an English language course to a group of young children who's families are waiting for their relocation case to be examined.

35-year-old Menar, a Syrian refugee who fled Syria with her 3 children, teaches an English language course to a group of young children at Hotel Rovies.  © UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis

Vasileiou responded to a call by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, for Greek hotels to host refugees as part of an accommodation programme funded by the European Commission. His hotel has become a temporary home for up to 88 asylum-seekers from Syria, Iraq, Eritrea and other countries. About half of them are children.

The hotel is not just a place to sleep. Vasileiou has gone the extra mile. He’s created a collective environment where refugees, hotel staff and locals in nearby Rovies village can eat, work and live all together – and learn from each other. At Hotel Rovies, instructors hired through the accommodation programme teach refugees theatre skills and swimming at the beach just outside. Refugee women cook their traditional meals in the bustling collective kitchen, while the reception-area TV blares Arabic channels. Children attend classes in German, English and French, taught by Greek teachers as well as fellow refugees. The community they have built is an example of solidarity in action.

“We live all together in the hotel,” Vasileiou says. “I sleep in one room. And the staff from Athens sleeps in another. Their doors are literally always open. We make them feel that this is their home and that they are part of a family.”

Read more at www.unhcr.org 

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