Homeless in Athens: A refugee with protection status. Photo: Salinia Stroux.

The current living conditions of beneficiaries of international protection in Greece are alarming. In a detailed legal note, PRO ASYL and the team of Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) in Greece have observed that their rights and effective protection exist only on paper.

In a legal note inclu­ding a series of con­duc­ted inter­views with affec­ted refu­gees, the experts stress that bene­fi­ci­a­ries of inter­na­tio­nal pro­tec­tion recei­ve no effec­ti­ve access and enjoy­ment of social rights in Greece.

Bene­fi­ci­a­ries of inter­na­tio­nal pro­tec­tion are defi­ned as ali­ens or sta­te­l­ess per­sons who have been reco­gni­zed as refu­gees or bene­fi­ci­a­ries of sub­si­dia­ry pro­tec­tion sta­tus. The living con­di­ti­ons for this group of refu­gees in Greece are pre­ca­rious. Not only do they suf­fer from the lack of inte­gra­ti­on pro­s­pects into the Greek socie­ty, but they are often facing ina­de­qua­te living con­di­ti­ons and huma­ni­ta­ri­an stan­dards, a pre­ca­rious socio-eco­no­mic situa­ti­on, and even have pro­blems in secu­ring their very existence.

Poor and inadequate housing

Many inter­na­tio­nal­ly pro­tec­ted refu­gees live in aban­do­ned hou­ses or infor­mal­ly ren­ted and over­c­row­ded apart­ments under deplo­rable con­di­ti­ons, in aban­do­ned ruins in Athens, on con­s­truc­tion sites in Thes­sa­lo­ni­ki or in emp­ty fac­to­ry halls in Patras. Some have been evic­ted or face evic­tion wit­hout alter­na­ti­ve; others sleep on the streets or in fri­ends’ hou­ses. Others are left to remain in the »tem­po­ra­ry« accom­mo­da­ti­on camps or UNHCR accom­mo­da­ti­on sche­me or even in the so cal­led hot­spots for seve­ral months after their reco­gni­ti­on whe­re they are sub­jec­ted to the same ina­de­qua­te con­di­ti­ons as the appli­cants for inter­na­tio­nal protection.

Poor living conditions, no jobs, no prospects

As the RSA legal note shows, access to food, toi­let, water, elec­tri­ci­ty, sani­ta­ry faci­li­ties and secu­ri­ty is not always secu­red. Bene­fi­ci­a­ries often suf­fer from the cold during the win­ter months or from the heat during the sum­mer months. Many sur­vi­ve only by rely­ing on the soli­da­ri­ty of others.

Many of the refu­gees are hard­ly making a living. As the ana­ly­sis shows, most bene­fi­ci­a­ries of inter­na­tio­nal pro­tec­tion are jobless or have lost their job wit­hout any pro­s­pect of fin­ding ano­ther one. Some of them work in the infor­mal eco­no­my for very low pay, wit­hout insu­rance, and are in dan­ger of being exploited.

Little or no access to information

Most of the affec­ted refu­gees are not pro­per­ly infor­med on their rights and obli­ga­ti­ons. In many cases, they face serious rest­ric­tions by law and prac­ti­ce to access social bene­fits and encoun­ter seve­re dif­fi­cul­ties in effec­tively acces­sing the health and edu­ca­ti­on system.

In an offi­ci­al infor­ma­ti­on docu­ment dis­tri­bu­ted by the Greek Asyl­um Ser­vice, bene­fi­ci­a­ries of inter­na­tio­nal pro­tec­tion are infor­med that the sta­te can­not offer them shel­ter, nor can it gua­ran­tee social bene­fits or access to the labor market.

Severe consequences for the refugees

Living under such con­di­ti­ons, the bene­fi­ci­a­ries of inter­na­tio­nal pro­tec­tion are easi­ly tar­ge­ted and suf­fer from secu­ri­ty pro­blems, vio­lence (in par­ti­cu­lar gen­der-based vio­lence against women and child­ren), explo­ita­ti­on and racist attacks.

The lack of any inte­gra­ti­on sche­me in Greece and the obs­ta­cles acces­sing social rights and the deplo­rable living con­di­ti­ons of bene­fi­ci­a­ries of inter­na­tio­nal pro­tec­tion impe­de fur­ther inte­gra­ti­on steps, such as long term resi­den­cy and natio­na­li­ty (which requi­re as a pre­con­di­ti­on a mini­mum inco­me and social secu­ri­ty, as well as know­ledge of the Greek lan­guage and society).

For more details on the fin­dings, read the full legal note here.

About Refugee Support Aegean

Refu­gee Sup­port Aege­an (RSA) is a Greek non-pro­fit orga­niza­ti­on focu­sing on stra­te­gic liti­ga­ti­ons in sup­port of refu­gees, moni­to­ring human rights vio­la­ti­ons, as well as the pro­vi­si­on of legal, social and huma­ni­ta­ri­an sup­port in indi­vi­du­al cases. Mem­bers of the orga­niza­ti­on are based on the islands and on the main­land and visit dif­fe­rent parts of Greece in order to docu­ment the situa­ti­on the­re. RSA is the imple­men­ting part­ner of the PRO ASYL foun­da­ti­on pro­ject RSPA-Refu­gee Sup­port Pro­gram Aege­an in Greece.