Maria works as an EASO Field Support officer in Lesvos and joined EASO’s operations in February 2017 as a locally recruited caseworker deployed in the island of Lesvos. Since then she has undertaken several different roles according to the needs of the Agency’s operations in Greece, such as info-provider/flow-manager as well as team leader. Currently working as a Field Support Officer, she is part of the EASO Coordination Team in Lesvos and supports the Field Coordinator in the overall management of the operations in the island, including staff coordination, liaising with the Greek Authorities and any other relevant stakeholder.
You are currently supporting EASO with the implementation of the relocation project. How is this experience for you?
Maria: For me this is a new and very interesting experience. Many different actors at central and field level work together as one team for the same purpose. Of course, this requires a very good organisation of the work needed to be done as well as of the role and the responsibilities of each one of the different stakeholders, in order to reach timely and efficiently the best possible outcome of this exercise. Nonetheless the whole project is really fulfilling when you realise that all these unaccompanied children will have the chance for better living conditions and probably a better future. In addition, when you think that European countries are trying to support each other as well as the applicants by sharing responsibility, the significance and importance of this project becomes even more prominent.
Maya: The implementation of the relocation project has been a very interesting and fulfilling experience in my opinion. First of all, it is a concrete application of the idea of a European solidarity, as it is a direct support to Greece by other Member States in order to share the responsibility of the asylum seekers and in particular of unaccompanied minors. In addition, both at central and field level this project has been planned in cooperation with several actors and organisations, leading to a single project implemented in combination of diverse approaches. Finally, having in mind that this project concerns unaccompanied minors, the idea of playing a small part in providing more adequate living conditions and care is motivating and rewarding on a daily basis.
What is the most challenging part of your work?
Maria: The most challenging but also the most interesting part of our work at the same time is that we have to deal with many different types of people on daily basis. People coming from totally different cultures, with totally different backgrounds, beliefs, ideas, personalities. Thus, you need to adjust every time depending on whom you are talking to and on what you would like to communicate to them or to make them understand. This is a big challenge but for me it is also the best part of our work. I think I have become a lot more open-minded and I have completely understood that nothing is self-evident, and nothing should be taken for granted.
Maya: Working in the field is, per se, challenging due to the context, the security issues, the place of work. However, in my opinion the most challenging part is to continuously witness the distress and situation of the applicants living in the Hotspot, and the feeling that after three years, the situation is remaining the same. In such a situation, it sometimes becomes challenging to continue being motivated and to keep in mind the purpose of the operations.
Sometimes in the hotspots, the people you speak to are nervous, distressed from their journey, recounting very difficult memories. How do you react/support them, so that they feel more secure?
Maria: I try to talk to the people and mainly listen to them and what they have to say. Depending on the background, the age and the personality of each person, I try to build an environment of familiarity and trust to make them understand that now they are in a safe European country where rights are respected. Although in my current role there is not so much direct interaction with third-country nationals coming to Greece in order to seek for international protection, it is often the case when I have to talk to them mostly regarding administrative procedures related to their cases.
Would you like to pass on a message to all those interested to work with EASO willing to support the Greek operations?
Maria: No one will disagree that working in the field is challenging and demanding. However, the experiences you obtain and the sense of fulfilment by supporting people in need as well as the Greek authorities to deal with the biggest crisis of the last years is incomparable.
Maya: As for any field work, working in the Greek Hotspots is undoubtedly challenging. Nonetheless, from a personal point of view, being in the heart of the so-called migration crisis is definitely an enriching and exciting experience.