Refugees experience Lisbon

It has been two years since the start of the refugee crisis and there is an increasing focus on the integration of refugees. However, in many cases, simple ideas are overlooked such as showing refugees their new cities. In Lisbon, Portugal, I organised a city tour with Take Lisboa, a local tour operator, to show refugees what it means to live in this wonderful city.

Working with Tatiana Fernandes of Take Lisbon, the three-hour tour took place on Saturday March 4th 2017 at 2pm. I worked with my team as Refugees Welcome Portugal to contact and gather a group of curious refugees, and we met at the famous Rossio Square, which is named after Pedro IV, King of Portugal and the first ruler of the Empire of Brazil. After introducing Refugees Welcome Portugal and Take Lisboa, Tatiana and her colleagues then showed us other iconic districts of Lisbon such as Alfama, Bairro Alto, Baixa and Graça. During the tour, Tatiana would tell us personal stories of her upbringing and how they showcased the personality of the districts we were in. For example, her interactions with old ladies in Alfama as they peeked out of the windows to observe life in their district.

There was a good turnout. I represented the main team of Refugees Welcome Portugal, there were three volunteers from the events team and eight refugees from countries such as Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and Palestine. The tour guides alternated the narrative aspect of the event tour and used their craft and passion to showcase the beauty and depth of Lisbon. The tour was a success and there was only positive feedback from the refugees, who were able to discover their new home from the eyes of locals for the first time. There are now talks to organise more tours.

Tola Akindipe is the co-founder and international officer at Refugees Welcome Portugal as well as a senior member of Refugees Welcome International.

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