ELNOR Report: Educational Backgrounds and Technology Access in Mavrovouni Refugee Camp

January, 2022

By Victoria Jones, Stanton Geyer, Lina Demis, Nora Lorenz 

Table of Contents:


1.0 Introduction

1.1 Relevance and Aims

1.2 Outline

2.0 Background

3.0 Methods

4.0 Findings

4.1 Language Interests

4.2 School Backgrounds

4.3 WiFi and Technology Access

4.4 Access to NGOs

4.5 Identities

4.6 Female Participants

5.0 Discussion

5.1 Language Interests and European Resettlement

5.2 Ethnic and National Identities in the Camp

5.3 Female Participants’ Educational Background and Opportunities

5.4 Suggestions for Future Survey and Interview Methodology

6.0 Conclusion

6.1 Outstanding Questions and Future Research

6.2 Policy Application


Appendix A, Appendix B


This report summarizes the findings of a research trip taken by the staff of the refugee education nonprofit ELNOR (English Language Network of Refugees) over a two-week period in October, 2021. Researchers conducted interviews and administered surveys to asylum seekers living in the Mavrovouni refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos and people who were living in the surrounding areas who had recently been granted asylum. The majority of interviewees came from Afghanistan, with others coming from Somalia and Burundi. Researchers’ questions covered topics of interest in language education, former education, access to technology, access to the news, and access to NGOs on the island. The results showed that the majority of interviewees hope to learn English or German and come from a variety of educational backgrounds ranging from 1-5 years of schooling to doctoral study. ELNOR hopes that the findings of this study can help inform NGOs working in refugee camps, policymakers in Europe, and future research by ELNOR’s team.

1.0 Introduction

In the fall of 2021, two staff members of the refugee education nonprofit ELNOR (English Language Network of Refugees) completed a research trip to Lesvos, Greece. 

The primary aim of this trip was to investigate the educational needs of people inside refugee camps. In addition, the staff members also met with students and connected with NGO partners.

ELNOR is a nonprofit startup, founded in the fall of 2020, that provides language education to people in refugee camps. Through its online program, adults in refugee camps can connect with tutors to practice English lessons, prepare for English language exams (such as the IELTS), and receive help with applications for universities, jobs, or internships. ELNOR focuses on adult language education as this population has historically been underserved by NGOs in refugee camps, which tend to focus on education for children (Interviewee 26). Learning English as a lingua franca can be particularly important for adults in refugee camps who are navigating the asylum process and do not yet know their next destination (Mecacci 2021). ELNOR began a pilot project of English lessons with 17 adult students in Mavrovouni in February 2021, and as of November 2021 had served approximately 120 students. 

In regard to the research in this study, ELNOR is founded on the principle that everyone has the right to education. International laws, including the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, protect education for all people regardless of citizenship status. Understanding these legal frameworks, ELNOR seeks to provide educational opportunities for people in refugee camps and understand how such international laws are implemented, or not implemented, on the ground. 

1.1 Relevance and Aims

The aim of this research is to understand people in refugee camps’ educational needs and access to technology in order to better serve ELNOR’s student base. ELNOR’s staff was seeking to find out more about what languages their beneficiaries want to learn, and how ELNOR could better utilize available, accessible technology in camps to reach students. Additional questions such as language education background and years of schooling aimed to inform the education team about camp residents’ previous learning experiences and adapt lessons accordingly. 

Currently, there is a noticeable dearth of literature on education in refugee camps. While the UNHCR has found that more than 50% of refugee children are not enrolled in school (UNHCR 2020), this number does not specify the percentage of youth in refugee camps who lack access to schooling. Refugee education is an understudied area, and what information does exist often discusses enrollment and integration into national education systems after receiving asylum and/or focuses on urban refugee settings (Mendenhall, Russell, Buckner 2017; Schorchit 2017). The lack of literature and information on refugee education in camps indicates a dearth of learning opportunities, especially for age groups outside of primary school age. This report adds to literature on educational needs within refugee camps.

1.2 Outline

This report will cover background information on the situation in Lesvos, methods of collecting data, data findings, and discussion of such findings. The background describes the context on the island of Lesvos. The methods section describes how semi-structured interviews and surveys in multiple languages were utilized to collect data in accordance with GDPR standards. The findings section shows the results of the survey as categorized by language interests, schooling backgrounds, WiFi and technology access, access to NGOs, female respondents, and questions about personal identity. Qualitative findings from the interviews are also included. Finally, the report discusses outstanding questions and areas of future research, and contributions to better understanding educational needs within refugee camps. 

2.0 Background

ELNOR conducted this survey on the island of Lesvos and operates its educational services there because it has been one of Europe’s main reception areas for people seeking asylum. Similar to other reception areas in the Aegean, including the Greek islands of Samos, Chios, Kos, and Kalolimnos, Lesvos is located roughly 6-10 miles (9-16 km) from the coast of Turkey. Often by makeshift rafts or small motor boats, people come to Lesvos looking for safety and their right to asylum, as protected by international law through the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention. 

Lesvos made international headlines in 2015-16 when hundreds of thousands of people sought asylum on its shores. In 2015, the island received an arrival of 10,000 people in one day alone (Magra 2018). Across the board, the majority of people arriving were adults and children fleeing Syria at the height of its civil war. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world swarmed the island during that time (Nianias 2016). Many provided crucial emergency care alongside Greek NGOs and willing locals, which was crucial given the limited capacity of the island. For reference, Lesvos’ capital city of Mytilene is a small port city with a population just under 60,000 (as of 2011).

Google Maps

In 2022, the situation looks very different from the 2015-16 peak of refugee migration, but Lesvos remains one of the main locations for asylum seeker arrivals in Europe. Many of the same challenges and problems remain. Most people are no longer arriving from Syria. Rather, Afghanistan became the primary country of origin over the past few years. According to the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC), approximately 3,011 people are living in the main refugee camp on Lesvos and of those residents roughly 72% are of Afghan nationality. However,  it is important to note that many of these people either spent several years or were born and raised in Iran as Afghan refugees. The second most common nationality is Somali, representing approximately 10% of residents, followed by 6% from Democratic Republic of Congo and 4% from Syria. Considering languages in these countries of origin, Afghanistan’s official languages are Dari (Persian) and Pashto, Somalia’s official languages are Somali and Arabic, the DRC’s is French, and Syria’s official language is Arabic. Therefore, the surveys for this research were offered in English, Dari, French, and Arabic.

Moria and Kara Tepe were Lesvos’ two major refugee camps in 2015-16. However, Moria burned down in September 2020 after a fire was set inside the camp (BBC 2020). While both local residents and asylum seekers sometimes refer to the current replacement camp as “Moria 2” or “Kara Tepe,” the new structure’s official name is Mavrovouni. 

3.0 Methods 

The methods of collecting data for this report included semi-structured interviews and a 13-question survey. The target populations were asylum seekers living in the refugee camp Mavrovouni and people who were living in the surrounding areas who had recently been granted asylum. Some of ELNOR’s current and former students were interviewed, as well as people who did not have a prior connection to ELNOR. Additionally, ELNOR’s staff conducted interviews with NGO staff members and Greek-born citizens for contextual data. In total, 26 people were interviewed: ten refugee/asylum seekers and 16 NGO staff and/or Greek-born citizens. 

The survey included 13 questions (see Appendix) covering topics of interest in language education, former education, access to technology, access to the news, and access to NGOs on the island. In total, 47 people completed the survey over an eight-day period. The surveys were translated into several languages, with options in English, Dari, French, and Arabic. These languages were chosen by speaking with NGO volunteers in Lesvos prior to the trip and reviewing data on camp residents’ countries of origin. 

For the surveys, ELNOR’s staff members partnered with NGOs on the island who gave permission to ask their beneficiaries some questions. Most of the surveys were conducted at a large conglomerate of NGOs, called One Happy Family, which sits up a hill across from the Mavrovouni refugee camp. No interviews or surveys were conducted inside the camp, given the high level of security and potential discomfort of the interviewees and survey respondents. 

All refugee interviewees and survey respondents gave permission for the anonymized use of their answers under the protection of GDPR that no personal information would be shared. 

Finally, this report, particularly the Discussion section, draws upon academic literature and news articles to place the findings in a larger historical and cultural context. 

4.0 Findings

Each survey questionnaire asks 13 questions, many with a tacit “choose all that apply” option. Many respondents also took the opportunity to write notes or comments off the margins of their survey.

47 people participated in the survey. Out of those, 40 identified as male and four as female, with three others not indicating a gender. Most respondents identified their country of origin as Afghanistan (40 of 47) with another three as Somalia and one as Burundi. The age of respondents ranges from 18 to 45, with an average age of 25.52 and 14 respondents providing either no or an unclear response.

4.1 Language Interests

Looking at the data on language interests, it is clear that there is a high interest in learning English, followed by an interest in learning German. Again, respondents could select multiple answers. Of the 47 survey respondents, 40 people expressed an interest in learning English and 23 people expressed interest in learning German. Many selected both. Very few respondents indicated that they were interested in learning French, Greek, or Spanish (nine, four, and two, respectively).

Note: Multiple answers could be selected.

In the interviews, multiple asylum seekers emphasized the importance of learning English. Interviewee 9 argued that learning English was essential, and that everyone should learn English for communication whether they want to learn the language or not. Another interviewee said that camp residents want to learn English by and large, but the level of proficiency that they hope to reach depends on which European country they want to go to (Interviewee 2). For example, camp residents might want to reach a fluent level to live in the UK, or only a basic level if they hope to go to Germany (Interviewee 2). Two interviewees also mentioned that they have honed their English-speaking skills by talking with native English speakers who volunteer in the Mavrovouni camp or in NGOs nearby (Interviewees 2, 4). 

In the surveys, the most often cited reasons for wanting to learn English were “education” and “social life,” followed by “work.” Multiple answers were again possible. 24 out of the 47 survey respondents answered they would want to learn English to pursue education while 22 aimed to participate in social life. 19 indicated their interest was because of work, six answered they were interested for family reasons, and five for legal assistance. Of four respondents who selected “other” for their reasoning, one wrote “it’s international,” showing a perception of English as a global lingua franca. 

When asked about previously studying English, 32 of the 47 respondents said that they have studied English in some capacity. 17 people reported having studied English in school, ten through NGO services, eight online, and five through other means. As for “other,” two students wrote that they have taken private English lessons, with four going out of their way to write “Afghanistan” beside the question. Again, participants could and often did select multiple answers.

Uncertainty lay in some responses to former English language education. One interviewee did explain that it was common for adults who taught English within the camp to have previously taken private English lessons in Iran (Interviewee 2). ELNOR’s staff members did not ascertain the extent of such private lessons nor whether these lessons were paid or volunteer. One interviewee with experience volunteering at a camp outside Athens explained that only children 6-12 years old receive English lessons, with few language learning opportunities for adults (Interviewee 26).

Considering the relatively high share of participants indicating an interest in learning German, there was an interesting finding among a few of the interviewed young adults. Of the ten refugee young adult interviewees, three mentioned wanting to move to Germany (Interviewees 4, 5, 9). One interviewee mentioned that Germany has better work opportunities than Greece (Interviewee 4), while another mentioned that the social environment was more welcoming to refugees in Germany than in Greece (Interviewee 5).

4.2 School Backgrounds

Survey question eight asked respondents how many years they went to school. Of the 47 respondents, a majority of 15 reported having attended school for 1-5 years. This was followed closely by 11 who selected 11-12 years and ten who selected University. Additionally, six respondents had completed 6-10 years of schooling. Four respondents did not respond to the question and one’s selection was illegible to ELNOR’s team. 

When speaking about schooling backgrounds, one interviewee expressed how she has been barred from accessing school as a refugee. Specifically, Interviewee 4 said she could not attend higher education institutions in Iran as an Afghan refugee. She noted that she did not have the right documentation to enroll in school. One interviewee and a couple survey respondents stated that upon gaining asylum they would apply for universities and masters programs in the European Union (Interviewee 5). 

4.3 WiFi and Technology Access

Most refugees in the camps have access to and use cell phones. One of the survey questions asked about what type of technology people have access to with the option to select multiple answers. There was no opportunity to add an open-ended response. Of the 47 respondents, the majority have access to cell phones, with 36 people mentioning the ability to use a cell phone. Behind that, 11 people stated that they have access to a computer. Three people mentioned being able to access an iPad/tablet. Three people recorded that they have no access to technology at all, and two people left the question blank. 

Importantly, many interviewees, both NGO volunteers and asylum seekers, explained that technological devices are often confiscated or destroyed by camp security forces if they see people using the camera feature to capture images inside the camp (Interviewees 4, 5, 11, 12). Additionally, Interviewee 4 described a story in which someone in the camp was physically slammed against a wall of an Isobox by a camp security guard for using a cell phone camera in the camp. In this way, even the utilization of such technological devices can be risky and dangerous for camp residents. 

Regarding WiFi access, a mixed picture emerges. 15 respondents indicated that they have access to WiFi every day, eight said 2-3 times a week, nine selected 1 time a week, and four less than one time a week. Nine people did not answer this question and there were also a few different responses like “none of them” or “I have internet”. Though this and other questions had formatting issues, respondents were uncritical and overall implications from surveys and interviews on this issue remain just as relevant.

Additionally, some interviewees commented on the lack of working WiFi for people inside the camp. NGO volunteers mentioned the poor WiFi connectivity within the camp, despite the fact that a French emergency technologies NGO called Telecom Sans Frontieres had come to set up a connection (Interviewees 18, 21). Adults who were living or had lived in the refugee camps also mentioned poor WiFi connection inside the camp (Interviewees 5, 8). 

When asked about how they access the news, 14 participants responded that they read the news online, followed by 13 saying that they do not read the news. Six answered that they find out about news in newspapers and four answered on the radio. Three selected “other”. Among open-ended answers, social media was mentioned three times and a few less clear answer options were also provided. 

One interviewee explained that he does not trust news media and considers it largely in the strategic interest of larger imposing bodies and an unrealistic way to engage with people in your life (Interviewee 5). He expressed that he considers personal relationships very dearly.

WhatsApp is widely accessible to the survey respondents with only two of 47 respondents indicating they have problems using WhatsApp and four non-responses. Other relevant apps mentioned include Instagram, Zoom, Telegram, and Zabon.

4.4 Access to NGOs

When asked about interaction and engagement with local NGOs, 39 out of 47 respondents responded, indicating a positive trend. 24 (51%) said they are in touch with local NGOs, 16 (34%) reportedly are not. However, the majority of interviewees were in fact approached inside local NGOs, putting into question the negative answers. 

Prior to the pandemic, one partner NGO reported receiving over 800 students and beneficiaries daily (Interviewee 21). This number has been decimated, due to both COVID-related restrictions and heightened security surrounding the camp. Interviewees from the camp and NGOs in the surrounding camp area explained that asylum seekers must have a specific reason for leaving the camp and must show documentation when entering and leaving the camp (Interviewees 7, 10, 15, 20, 21). The security in front of the camps also often requests permission slips provided by the NGOs for residents to leave the camp.

Some interviewees commented on the importance of their access to NGOs. For example, Interviewee 8, who accessed and volunteered at NGOs in the surrounding area, reported that spending time at these places outside of the camp was important for his health.

Additionally, some interviewees expressed disdain or distrust of certain or many NGOs working in and around the camp. For example, one participant stated that he disliked NGO aid workers (Interviewee 5). This interviewee noted that some of them were willing to use physical force on people, especially against people who they perceive to “have a problem,” because it creates more work for the aid workers.

4.5 Identities

The last question of this survey asked respondents what other identities were important to them. The aim was to provide a space for respondents to share any other information impacting their lives, their education, or learning interests. Of the 47 respondents, seven wrote “Hazara.” Four wrote “nothing” and two wrote “I don’t know.” The responses “other,” “doesn’t matter,” and “n/a” were each shared once. Thirty respondents did not provide any response.

A couple of interviewees mentioned that many of the physical fights between people in the camps break out between people of the same country but of different ethnicities (Interviewees 4, 5). They described occasional disputes erupting along ethnic lines, especially between Hazaras and other groups from Afghanistan.

Interviewees also mentioned that people are divided in the camps by nationality, and it is clear that some groups receive better resources than others within the camp (whether that be the amount of space per tent, legal services, etc.) (Interviewees 4, 5). It is important to consider these dynamics within the camp along lines of both ethnicity and nationality, and how they create hierarchies of access to human and critical resources within the camp.

4.6 Female participants

Of the 47 respondents surveyed, only four identified as women. In the area where the interviews were completed near the Mavrovouni camp, such as at the NGO One Happy Family, there were very few women present. Despite the low number of women participants, it appears that the personal details they shared can be extrapolated to more common narratives. Between the ages of 24-32, each had attended school for some time in their life. 

All four women were adamant that they wanted to learn English, with two further interested in learning German. The same three were interested in English for purposes of finding work, continuing their education, and pursuing social life. Two were also interested in English for reconnecting with family abroad, while another two were interested in English for reasons of pursuing legal aid. Other than the 24-year-old respondent, three women accessed the internet 0-1 time per week. Two accessed through a cell phone, while one recorded having no devices regularly at her disposal. This was the same woman who sought English lessons for legal purposes.

5.0 Discussion 

Due to the limited sample size of surveys and interviews, this report does not aim to make generalizations but rather to consider certain data within a larger historical and cultural context. This analysis explores interesting perspectives on participants’ language interests with regards to livelihood and European residence, ethnic and national identity and its role inside the camp, and schooling backgrounds of and opportunities for female participants.

5.1 Language Interests and European Resettlement   

While English remains the main language of interest for the survey respondents there is a large interest in learning German. This is particularly interesting given that “German” is not considered a “lingua franca” in the rest of the world, given that it is only an official language in six countries and primarily spoken in Germany. This would imply that people interested in learning German hope to live in a German-speaking country. Moreover, the interview data shows that many of the interviewees mentioned Germany as the country in which they hope to live and build a life. Through the data, there seems to be a narrative of Germany being a place that many refugee adults hope to live and work, which is common among asylum seekers in Europe (DW 2021). More data is needed to confirm where this preference comes from, but some potential reasons could be family members and personal contacts who have resettled in Germany, the view of an open environment for refugee families (Interviewee 5), and strong social services upon arrival (Klingenberg and Rex 2016).

This perception of Germany as a welcoming country could be driven by two main factors. In 2015, the chancellor at the time, decided to let thousands of people who had come to Germany through what became known as the “Balkan route” enter the country even though other EU member states were officially responsible under the Dublin Regulation (Ernst 2021). Although the political situation and receptiveness has changed since then, Germany is still perceived as an open country for refugees. As both the largest country and economy in the EU, it appears to offer economic opportunity.

Other than some particular instances of Germany resettling members of the refugee community in Greece (for example, after Moria’s 2020 fire), there is little indication that asylees will be resettled in any country other than the country of entry (Sanderson 2020). It is important to note that in the current policy climate of the Dublin Regulation, if asylum seekers receive asylum in their European country of entry, they are not allowed to transfer this asylum status to another European country (Sanderson 2020). For example, if an adult arrives in Lesvos and gains asylum in Greece, they cannot transfer that asylum to Germany. If that person travels to Germany from Greece, they will have to go through another asylum process in Germany. Because of this, many of ELNOR’s students have spent months or years in refugee camps in Greece, only to travel to Germany and reapply for asylum while they wait in German refugee camps.

5.2 Ethnic and National Identities in the Camp

When asked about other identities without a multiple-choice format, seven respondents wrote in “Hazara.” It is understood that Hazara Afghans make up a substantial portion if not the majority of camp residents (Interviewee 4). “Hazara” denotes one of the largest ethnic groups in Afghanistan (approximately 20% of the population) primarily living in Afghanistan’s mountainous central region of Hazarajat, and as a diaspora throughout Afghanistan, in Pakistan, Iran, and around the world (Khazeni et al. 2012; Baloch 2021). The language Hazaragi is its own variety of Persian and is mutually intelligible with both Dari and Farsi.

The history of Hazara migration has been shaped by many violent historical incidents, particularly since the era of Emir Abd-al-Rahman Khan’s rule at the height of British imperial intervention in the late 1800s (Tarzi 2017). A resurgence of broad violence against Hazara communities has been ongoing since the Afghan Civil War, with the era broadly labeled a second Hazara Genocide carried out by Taliban, Daesh/IS-Khorasan, and other actors (OHCHR 2019; Khazeni et al. 2012). Since their 2021 recapture of Afghanistan through Kabul, the Taliban have undone basic citizenship rights and further institutionalized sectarian and ethnic discrimination toward Hazaras and many other groups, including massacres and faulty mass evictions (Mohammadi and Askary 2021).

Due to this persecution in Afghanistan, many Hazara people fled to Iran over the last several decades (Entezar 2016). As previously mentioned, many people in the Mavrovouni refugee camp were born or grew up in Iran as Afghan refugees. Few ever gained the necessary official documents to access Iranian higher education and public services. As one Afghan participant told us, “I was a citizen with zero rights [in Iran]” (Interviewee 5). It was interesting to note that many of the respondents and interviewees have understood themselves to be refugees their entire lives, not only since arriving on Greek shores in the past several years.

Alongside topics to revisit for deeper exploration, ELNOR’s future surveys hope to clarify certain questions with the respondents, in order to overcome potential phrasing issues that have since been identified. Crucially, the final question about “identity” might have been confusing for some survey respondents given cultural differences surrounding questions of identity. ELNOR’s staff members have been advised on a number of occasions by Arabic and Dari speakers that questions regarding “identity,” including in Arabic and Dari, are vaguely understood and might not elicit very detailed responses. Responses like “nothing,” “don’t know,” and “doesn’t matter” could imply a lack of importance to students of the word “identity” or the question overall, or that this question was confusing.

5.3 Female Participants’ Educational Backgrounds and Opportunities

Of the four Afghan women, all would have begun school, presumably primary school or an equivalent, during the later years of the first Taliban regime or early years of the U.S. invasion. Three would attend for roughly 1-6 years, leaving school between the ages of 12-18 depending on what age they began primary school. In one case, a young woman of just 24 years reported completing 11-12 years of school. In the larger picture of education in Afghanistan, important to note is that in 2019 — only a few years after this interviewee finished school — an estimated 3.7 million children were out of school, with 60% of children out of school being girls (UNICEF 2019). Some reasons for girls leaving school early are Taliban pressures, lack of sanitation facilities, cultural barriers, financial issues, and young marriages (UNICEF 2019).

However, when calculating length of schooling, ELNOR’s staff members could have collected greater data, as the survey did not take into account variable entry levels to education. The question could have been better formulated to specifically target the ages for which respondents completed schooling. Additionally, it is unclear in what settings these years of schooling were completed (e.g., formal schooling vs refugee camp education programs). 

Future surveys could also ask more questions on women’s social experiences broadly and more specifically, such as in contexts of education, child rearing, medical access, among others. If ELNOR’s staff members only gain limited access to women living within the camp as on this visit, future surveys should also approach volunteers’, staff members’, and boys’ and men’s considerations of women’s issues herein.

As for asking survey questions in the future, a more standardized use of the terms “gender” and “sex” might also elicit more forthright responses from some surveyed. 

5.4 Suggestions for Future Survey and Interview Methodology 

Some issues were faced in the data collection of the surveys. First, many respondents left several questions blank on their surveys. In the future, ELNOR hopes to work more closely with translators to answer respondents’ questions or concerns regarding the survey questions. Additionally, some respondents shared survey forms with their peers, using differently-colored ink to indicate their respective answers. Though this did not affect the tallying of responses, respondents potentially were primed by the presence of their peers’ answers on the survey form. Furthermore, two respondents could neither read nor write in any language, and they relied on the efforts of their peers to complete their surveys who recorded the illiterate respondents’ answers on the survey form.

Potentially, the word “NGO” in both its English and Dari translation was unfamiliar to the survey respondents. It is also possible that there is a common notion that formally stating one’s relationship with NGOs or any services in a given area can hinder one’s resettlement claims, as it shows one’s life in a given location to be stable as is (Interviewees 4, 5). In this case, it is possible that respondents misunderstood the GDPR statement and sought to additionally protect their identities.

6.0 Conclusion

The data collected through 47 surveys and 26 interviews allows ELNOR to better understand asylum seekers’ language interests, educational backgrounds, access to technology, ethnic backgrounds, and perceptions of Europe. English is the primary language of interest to learn, with German following second. Educational backgrounds among survey respondents varied, with the largest group of survey respondents having 1-5 years of schooling. As for access to technology, cell phones tend to be the most common device used, and many people were critical about the camp’s wifi inaccessibility. With regards to ethnic backgrounds, several students mentioned their Hazara ethnic background. Finally, multiple interviews showed a preference toward resettlement in Germany.

6.1 Outstanding Questions and Future Research

In the future, ELNOR hopes to gather more information about refugee camp residents’ education and experiences, including access to education inside the camp, study habits, ages during previous school attendance, and professional backgrounds. Questions could ask about classes inside the camp, time for studying, and attitudes toward studying given the extremely challenging conditions of the Mavrovouni camp. Understanding perceptions of studying would help ELNOR prepare better-suited curricula for its students in the camps.

 Additionally, future research should specify questions about technology access including devices and models, use of emails and individual WhatsApp/messenger accounts, social media use, and data plans. In accordance with proper privacy interests, ELNOR’s staff members hope to explore any statistically significant traits of shared refugee camp experiences.

As this is a survey for language education, preparation of future surveys should better take into account respondents’ familiarity with the questionnaire format and their comprehension of each question. In any future surveys, a written rather than tacit “choose all that apply” prompt might elicit greater responses, both selected and written down. It did occur several times that respondents seemed confused about how questions were asked or how respondents were expected to answer. Additionally, it is important to have stronger survey-taking methods for the cases of illiteracy in one’s native language. For future surveys, it would be helpful to have volunteer translators who can clearly and fluently read the survey questions to respondents who do not know how to read and record their answers accordingly. 

From numerous interviews and a general understanding of the intense process of seeking asylum, it is clear that a better introduction to ELNOR’s work, interests, responsibilities, and respondents’ anonymity (beyond a text-heavy GDPR form) should be implemented before surveying again. ELNOR’s staff members found much hesitancy and some distrust among respondents, not unfounded as they have so much riding on not having their narratives told improperly during this process. For example, questions about identity might be shaped by histories of religious and ethnic pressure affecting life back home and sometimes affecting even their EU asylum cases (Interviewee 4; Refugee Observatory 2018). ELNOR intends to explore such issues further in future work.

6.2 Policy Application

The findings in this pilot study can be utilized by education NGOs and other service NGOs within refugee camps in Greece to understand the background of camp residents. Questions that have been posed in this survey, such as previous experience studying English and number of years in school, can inform education NGOs working in refugee camps and provide an example of what questions to ask in order to understand student backgrounds. In order to best teach students, it is essential for their teachers to have an understanding about their previous access to education.

For NGOs that look to connect with people in the camp through technology, specifically during lockdowns throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, it is essential to know what types of technological devices people can access. As aforementioned, a future study with a larger sample size is needed to find statistical significance for many of the questions asked in these surveys, but the questions posed here can inform other NGOs and future research on such topics.


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 Mendenhall, Mary, Susan Garnett Russell, and Elizabeth Buckner. Policy Report Urban Refugee Education: Strengthening Policies and Practices for Access, Quality and Inclusion. 2017. Teachers College, Columbia, University. http://www.tc.columbia.edu/media/centers/refugee-education-research-and-projects/Urban-Refugees-Full-Report.pdf 

Mohammadi, Sitarah, and Sajjad Askary. “Why the Hazara People Fear Genocide in Afghanistan.” Human Rights | Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera, October 27, 2021. https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2021/10/27/why-the-hazara-people-fear-genocide-in-Afghanistan.

Nianias, Helen. “Refugees in Lesbos: Are There Too Many NGOs on the Island?” The Guardian, January 5, 2016, sec. Global Development Professionals Network. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/jan/05/refugees-in-lesbos-are-there-too-many-ngos-on-the-island.

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Appendix A

English translation of survey:

  1. Do you want to learn a new language? Which one?
    1. French
    2. Spanish
    3. Greek
    4. English
    5. German
    6. No new languages
    7. Other:                                                                                      .
  2. If English, why?
    1. Work
    2. Education
    3. Social life
    4. Family
    5. Legal assistance
    6. No, I don’t want to learn English. 

Other:                                                                                              .

  1. Have you studied English before?
  1. Yes 
  2. No 

If yes, where? 

  1. in school
  2. with an NGO 
  3. Online
  4. Other:                                                                                               .
  1. What kind of tech devices do you ever access?
    1. Computer
    2. iPad/Tablet
    3. Cell Phone
    4. None
  2. How often do you have WiFi?
    1. Every day
    2. 2-3 times a week
    3. 1 time a week
    4. Less than 1 time per week
  3. How do you access the news?
    1. Online (where?)
    2. Radio
    3. Newspaper
    4. I don’t access the news.
    5. Other:                                                         . 
  1. Do you have problems using Whatsapp?
    1. Yes
    2. No

Why?                                                         .

Do you prefer other apps?                                                         .

  1. How many years did you go to school?
    1. 1-5
    2. 6-10
    3. 11-12
    4. University 
    5. Masters/Doctoral/Postgraduate
  1. Have you engaged with any NGOs on the island? 
    1. Yes
    2. No 
    3. If yes, what is their name?                                                .
  1. What country are you from? 
  1. How old are you? 
  1. What is your gender?
    1. Female
    2. Male
    3. Other
  1. What are other important identities to you? Feel free not to share.

Appendix B

1refugee/asylum seeker
2refugee/asylum seekers
3refugee/asylum seekers
4refugee/asylum seekers
5refugee/asylum seekers
6refugee/asylum seekers
7refugee/asylum seekers
8refugee/asylum seekers
refugee/asylum seekers
10refugee/asylum seekers
11NGO volunteer
12NGO volunteer
13Greek-born citizen, NGO volunteer
14Greek-born citizen
15NGO volunteer
16NGO volunteer
17NGO volunteer
18NGO volunteer
19NGO volunteer
20NGO volunteer
21NGO volunteer
22NGO volunteer
23NGO volunteer
24NGO volunteer
25NGO volunteer
26NGO volunteer

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