SOUTH ASIAN EUROPEAN NETWORK
The HOPE•II consultation programme is proposed as follows:
Any further updates on the South-Asian sub-group for the HOPE•II consultation programme will be posted here.
Consultations will be held at the Hotel Budapest, Szilagyi Erzsebet Fasor 47, 1026 Budapest.
To Europe at any cost!
“Europe is the continent where we will have an opportunity to make a living and to support our families back home” is what I read again and again. Articles about the South Asian Diaspora in Europe mention, that the influx of people from South Asia is growing at a phenomenal rate.
Most of them do not come the ‘normal way’ with a proper visa stamped in their passport but they come as irregular or illegal immigrants often at great costs. More than 90 % of these young men are single, between 20-40 years of age and they all fear the police! They fear arrest and deportation. These young men have risked their lives to come to Europe, the dream continent of prosperity and security.
Over the last few years countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece have become the port of entry into Europe. Athens, the capital of Greece, is home to a large group of South Asians from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. Their co-ethnic networks in Greece will help these new immigrants to find employment mostly in the black economy. Moreover, such networks also provide many other useful services such as housing, loans and sending remittances back to their respective countries.
The official figures for the Pakistani community in Greece is 12.000 yet reliable sources of organizations working with refugees and immigrants estimate the population of at least 40-50 000. The Bangladeshis in Greece number 12.000 of which many are employed in the catering sector. These new immigrants face a whole set of difficulties such as legal and language problems, culture shock and racial prejudice.
Is this just happening in Greece alone? I heard that in ‘El Raval’, a neighborhood in Barcelona the number of Pakistanis grew to more than 50 000 over the last few years. Last year, before I visited Italy, I checked the statistics provided by the Italian government about the number of South Asians living there. They numbered 174 000. Just recently the Italian government updated their statistics and the latest figures show more than 285 000 people from South Asian countries and it doesn’t include the many illegals that I met in Roma, Milano and other places in Italy.
The South Asian Diaspora in Europe is growing and will grow even more. The recent floods in Pakistan will no doubt contribute to another major increase in people from Pakistan coming to Europe. There are now already well-established communities in many countries in Europe and these communities will provide the ‘first aid’ for those newly arrivals. Cities like Milano, Athens, ‘El Raval’ or ‘Little Karachi’, a neighborhood in Oslo, will see an increase in people from Pakistan.
How does the church and the mission organizations respond to the challenge of the new immigrants in Europe? I recently was part of a mission conference in Italy where I had the opportunity to share about the South Asian Diaspora in Europe. I was able to establish connections with a number of ministries working in Italy and it will no doubt result in greater awareness and more prayer and hopefully cultural sensitive outreach towards them but what about all the others cities and countries in Europe? There is much that needs to be done and we need more people who will pray and are willing to go and share the message of hope, love and forgiveness with this new immigrants and refugees in our European cities.
By Thomas Hieber
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