The announced eviction of recognized refugees from accommodation in ESTIA flats and official refugee camps will lead to homelessness and destitution for many as very few steps have been taken so far by the Greek authorities in practice to secure the refugees’ autonomous living and equal integration into Greek society.

In ear­ly Febru­ary, the Greek Minis­try of Migra­ti­on Poli­cy announ­ced the gra­du­al ter­mi­na­ti­on of accom­mo­da­ti­on to bene­fi­ci­a­ries of inter­na­tio­nal pro­tec­tion living in refu­gee camps in main­land Greece. The first group of bene­fi­ci­a­ries of inter­na­tio­nal pro­tec­tion requi­red to lea­ve their accom­mo­da­ti­on were tho­se reco­gni­zed befo­re the end of July 2017, and the dead­line given for their exit was 31 March 2019.

In ear­ly March 2019, the Minis­try of Migra­ti­on Poli­cy issued a Minis­te­ri­al Decis­i­on sta­ting among­st others that tho­se asyl­um-see­kers bene­fiting from the ESTIA Pro­gram­me would in gene­ral con­ti­nue being pro­vi­ded with accom­mo­da­ti­on and cash assis­tance for an addi­tio­nal peri­od of six months upon receipt of the decis­i­on gran­ting them inter­na­tio­nal pro­tec­tion sta­tus. The Greek aut­ho­ri­ties have announ­ced that 204 bene­fi­ci­a­ries of inter­na­tio­nal pro­tec­tion – reco­gni­zed befo­re the end of July 2017 – face evic­tion from their ESTIA accommodation.

Bene­fi­ci­a­ries of inter­na­tio­nal pro­tec­tion did not and do not yet have access to a com­pre­hen­si­ve plan and pro­gram­me for their integration

PRO ASYL/ Refu­gee Sup­port Aege­an (RSA) rei­te­ra­te that despi­te the recent­ly pre­sen­ted natio­nal inte­gra­ti­on stra­tegy, bene­fi­ci­a­ries of inter­na­tio­nal pro­tec­tion did not and do not yet have access to a com­pre­hen­si­ve plan and pro­gram­me for their inte­gra­ti­on that would pro­vi­de Greek lan­guage lear­ning and their par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on in trai­ning or job see­kers’ pro­gram­mes. This results in bene­fi­ci­a­ries of inter­na­tio­nal pro­tec­tion fin­ding them­sel­ves in a dis­ad­van­ta­ged posi­ti­on in com­pa­ri­son to the local popu­la­ti­on see­king employment.

In March 2019, the Minis­try of Migra­ti­on Poli­cy announ­ced the launch of the »HELIOS 2« pro­gram­me. Howe­ver, the pro­gram­me is expec­ted to start in June 2019 and pro­vi­des inte­gra­ti­on acti­vi­ties and ren­tal sup­port only for six month and only for 5.000 recent­ly reco­gni­zed refu­gees. Fur­ther, the Greek aut­ho­ri­ties have not ensu­red in prac­ti­ce equal access to the natio­nal sys­tem of social sup­port to bene­fi­ci­a­ries of inter­na­tio­nal pro­tec­tion. Thus, the accom­mo­da­ti­on bene­fit is gran­ted only to tho­se who are legal­ly resi­dent in the coun­try for at least five years and can pro­vi­de a ren­tal agree­ment docu­ment. As a result, refu­gees reco­gni­zed after 2014 are being excluded from access to this bene­fit. In addi­ti­on, the social soli­da­ri­ty bene­fit (KEA) is gran­ted under spe­ci­fic requi­re­ments to tho­se being able to pro­vi­de a valid ren­tal agree­ment of a mini­mum six-month dura­ti­on or have been given a home­l­ess­ness cer­ti­fi­ca­te by the Muni­ci­pa­li­ty social ser­vices. PRO ASYL/ RSA  have docu­men­ted exten­si­ve­ly the gre­at dif­fi­cul­ties that cer­tain cate­go­ries of home­l­ess refu­gees have to obtain a home­l­ess­ness certificate.

Refu­gees reco­gni­zed after 2014 are being excluded from access to acco­mo­da­ti­on benefit

Alt­hough tho­se refu­gees evic­ted from their accom­mo­da­ti­on will recei­ve an exten­si­on of cash, in view of the abo­ve, PRO ASYL/ RSA stron­gly belie­ves that on its own the exten­si­on will not cover their basic living needs bey­ond the sti­pu­la­ted three-month peri­od. In prac­ti­cal terms, the exten­si­on of cash assis­tance for a peri­od of three months will not ensu­re that they can find other accom­mo­da­ti­on and have access to social bene­fits as indi­vi­du­als app­ly­ing for KEA have to pro­vi­de a ren­tal agree­ment for a mini­mum of six months. Under such con­di­ti­ons, the evic­tion of bene­fi­ci­a­ries of inter­na­tio­nal pro­tec­tion from refu­gee camps or flats will lead them to home­l­ess­ness and ina­bi­li­ty to cover their basic needs as they will not be able to find employ­ment or recei­ve social benefits.

Atten­ti­on should be drawn spe­ci­fi­cal­ly to cases of refu­gees asked to lea­ve their accom­mo­da­ti­on, by the end of March 2019, whe­re legal pro­ce­du­res had not been fol­lo­wed. In the­se cases, the aut­ho­ri­ties did not adhe­re to the requi­re­ments of Greek legis­la­ti­on regar­ding the type of the admi­nis­tra­ti­ve act issued, the pri­or-hea­ring of the per­son affec­ted and the right to judi­cial pro­tec­tion. The refu­gees con­cer­ned were asked to sign a let­ter and no for­mal pro­ce­du­re was fol­lo­wed to end their accom­mo­da­ti­on. PRO ASYL/ RSA has been moni­to­ring and docu­men­ting such cases for asyl­um-see­kers living in flats of the Atti­ca ESTIA pro­gram­me and Nor­t­hern Greece offi­ci­al accom­mo­da­ti­on sites.

PRO ASYL/ RSA urges the Greek aut­ho­ri­ties to adhe­re to their obli­ga­ti­ons under inter­na­tio­nal, EU and natio­nal legis­la­ti­on and ensu­re the mini­mum of a digni­fied and secu­re living to all indi­vi­du­als resi­ding in the coun­try inclu­ding refu­gees and stop taking steps that lead this par­ti­cu­lar­ly vul­nerable group to home­l­ess­ness and destitution.