Yorkshire MEP Amjad Bashir has joined a charity expedition to aid people left homeless and hungry by the crash of the Greek economy.
He arrived in Athens yesterday (Wedesday) with more than 30 volunteers from the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe (ACRE) under the banner of its social action initiative Project Maja.
The financial crisis which started nearly 10 years ago in Greece has left thousands suffering social and financial exclusion. Unemployment stands at 25 per cent and patchy state provision leaves many homeless and struggling to feed themselves.
In addition Greece finds itself on the front line of Europe’s immigration crisis with economic migrants and refugees arriving daily from Africa and the Middle East.
The ACRE delegation comprises MEPs, MPs and activists from 14 countries who will work with the independent Praksis charity to re-equip and redecorate a homeless day centre and a polyclinic with medical and dental facilities.
The deperately-needed facilities stand only streets away from Athens’s busy historic attractions – but are seldom seen by tourists.
The delegation is also joining forces with the Shedia charity and its Kick Out Poverty campaign, which uses the incentive of playing in football tournaments as a way to help homeless Greeks to socialise and re-integrate in society. Delegates will construct an artificial pitch in central Athens for homeless teams.
Mr Bashir, Conservative MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “It’s all about us seeing problems direct – then rolling our sleeves up to help where we can.
“Ironically the way the EU has handled Greece has contributed greatly to the plight of these people.
“Shedia is about giving them a helping hand, not a hand out. They have a street paper like our Big Issue and other programmes are designed to help people get back into work by building experience and self-confidence.”
ACRE will also distribute 14 full football kits for all age groups that were given to Project Maja by Tottenham Hotspur.
Previously Project Maja has run projects in Turkey, Bosnia, Bangladesh, Croatia and Sicily. It lets policy-makers experience directly the social problems they so often discuss in their respective legislatures.