A Greek-French born in Spain, Mr. Colombani, journalist in the profession, has been living in Athens for the last six years. He is the president of the Union of Immigrants of Greece, who long been housed in brand-new offices, at 155 Acharnes Street.
“The Union of Immigrants of Greece started in November 2008 as a federation of three immigrant associations, as an umbrella for all immigrants in Greece,” he says. “We have a library that includes books in all languages, a playground, an internet access point and a multi-ethnic canteen where we organize events. We also teach Greek, English, French and Spanish lessons “. It is a Tuesday night, and the sense of community is diffused in space. The world goes from the canteen to the offices where we are, the bell rings constantly, and the speakers are heard from the kitchen. Ludmila from Ukraine and Khalid, Kurd from Iraq, speak to each other in Greek. Four stacks of clothes that came today from Marfin Foundation are waiting to the hall to be arranged. “There are no programs in Greece, no efforts are being made to integrate immigrants into Greek or more generally in European society. There is not even media in their language, “says Mr. Colombani. In Sydney, the City has allocated a building to the offices of all clubs, all immigrant representatives, so that they can create, work and do things together. It is very important for their integration. This gives the other the opportunity to understand each other. It is very dangerous to force him to be ghettoized, to live in a circuit closed. Thus, crime and xenophobia are increasing”. But beyond the cultural community, the Immigrant Association is an independent, non-governmental organization that aims both in peace and integration, and in the education of migrants. “It is good that the government is now doing the right to give the immigrants the right to vote, just before I go to vote, I have to be mature and know the national web so I can decide. Knowing things like the Greek language, history, what does the state mean, what it means bureaucracy etc.”? explains Mr. Colombani. These days they are preparing a magazine, Immigrant Voice, which will be a free, multi-culti press, written in seven languages and released on April 15th. “We are very trying to do things to make the other feel that he is in his own country,” says Mr. Colombani, and continues “at the same time, we want to sensitize the Greek, to be next to his fellow citizen. For this reason we celebrated March 1 as Day Without Us, to say that an immigrant does not mean exploitation, that immigrants are not as the government sees them, papers and fees, stamps and insurance, a species to exploit. An immigrant who lives here pays insurance, pays electricity, pays everything as the Greek citizen pays. The difference is in paper and legal documents. “