Arrival in Greece. Photo: private

Three years after the implementation of the EU Turkey Deal in March 2016, EU and Greece still struggle to address the consequences of the established status quo. Based on three examples, Refugee Support Aegean and PRO ASYL disclose the prevailing malfunction of the reception system, which still responses to emergencies only.

Despi­te con­sidera­ble finan­cial sup­port from the EU, the coun­try­’s recep­ti­on sys­tem still can­not cope with per­sis­ting chal­lenges. The »human cost« upon thou­sands of refu­gees remains signi­fi­cant and the Greek aut­ho­ri­ties per­sist in fol­lo­wing a dys­func­tion­al patch­work approach through which tem­po­ra­ry pro­jects are being imple­men­ted to cover pre­vious fail­ures, only to add up fur­ther cos­ts and crea­te addi­tio­nal needs in the end.

In an effort to under­stand why this patch­work approach still pre­vails, Refu­gee Sup­port Aege­an (RSA) and PRO ASYL have exami­ned and ana­ly­sed three key issues rela­ted to the func­tion of the country’s recep­ti­on sys­tem. The ana­ly­sis is pre­sen­ted in the stu­dy: »Struc­tu­ral Fail­ure: Why Greece’s recep­ti­on sys­tem fai­led to pro­du­ce sus­tainable solutions«.

Based on available infor­ma­ti­on and inter­views, the stu­dy exami­nes in particular

  • why the Greek Mana­ging Aut­ho­ri­ty for AMIF (Asyl­um, Migra­ti­on and Inte­gra­ti­on Fund) and ISF (Inter­nal Secu­ri­ty Fund) has never mana­ged to stream­li­ne effec­tively regu­lar fun­ding for recep­ti­on rela­ted pro­jects and the prac­ti­cal consequences;
  • why the coun­try­wi­de medi­cal pro­ject PHILOS – imple­men­ted by the Natio­nal Orga­niza­ti­on for Public Health – has never ful­ly taking off and how this has under­mi­ned recep­ti­on and pro­tec­tion in the Greek hot-spots as well as on the mainland;
  • why the stale­ma­te on the Greek islands has led to the urgent imple­men­ta­ti­on of FILOXENIA pro­ject, imple­men­ted by IOM (Inter­na­tio­nal Orga­niza­ti­on for Migra­ti­on), with the pur­po­se of crea­ting tem­po­ra­ry addi­tio­nal capa­ci­ty to the recep­ti­on sys­tem alt­hough no exit stra­tegy was deve­lo­ped for the pro­ject from a start.

Inef­fec­ti­ve­ness and poli­ti­cal mani­pu­la­ti­ons of purely admi­nis­tra­ti­ve issues per­pe­tua­ted the problems

The ana­ly­sis led to the con­clu­si­on that pro­jects and struc­tures that should address the serious pro­blems in the recep­ti­on sys­tem had a fla­wed design from an ear­ly stage onwards. This trig­ge­red their pro­ble­ma­tic imple­men­ta­ti­on, which pro­du­ced fur­ther needs and expen­ses. Inef­fec­ti­ve­ness and poli­ti­cal mani­pu­la­ti­ons of purely admi­nis­tra­ti­ve issues per­pe­tua­ted the pro­blems and led to a patch­work of tem­po­ra­ry inter­ven­ti­ons that have crea­ted a recep­ti­on sys­tem unable to pro­vi­de long term solu­ti­ons and con­stant­ly responds to emergencies.

By mid-2019, the struc­tu­ral pro­blems cha­rac­te­ri­zing Greece’s and the EU’s manage­ment of the refu­gee issue in the eas­tern Medi­ter­ra­ne­an fron­tier are as vivid as always. Regu­lar bud­get lines have not been estab­lished and the manage­ment of EU regu­lar funds and emer­gen­cy assis­tance is still a chall­enge. Per­sis­tent pro­blems inclu­ding the insuf­fi­ci­ent capa­ci­ty of unac­com­pa­nied minors’ shel­ters are going to remain for the rest of the year and bey­ond. Mean­while, EODY (Natio­nal Orga­niza­ti­on for Public Health, repla­cing KEELPNO) is still strugg­ling with recruit­ment of per­son­nel for PHILOS 2. Pro­s­pects for a reso­lu­ti­on of the major issue of not having enough doc­tors to man RICs on the islands and Evros as well as main­land camps are not positive.

Lack of accom­mo­da­ti­on capa­ci­ty is the ele­phant in the room. Efforts to trans­fer about 30,000 accom­mo­da­ti­on places under the manage­ment of natio­nal aut­ho­ri­ties, while the coun­try will be hol­ding natio­nal elec­tions in July, is cer­tain­ly going to test the limits of the alre­a­dy inef­fi­ci­ent recep­ti­on sys­tem.  RSA and PRO ASYL call to Greek aut­ho­ri­ties to enga­ge in a holi­stic over­haul of the sys­tem that will make it more resi­li­ent to sud­den pres­su­res and more effec­ti­ve in pro­tec­ting vul­nerable per­sons. This over­haul should pre­ser­ve the posi­ti­ve ele­ments intro­du­ced sin­ce 2015 such as the hos­ting of asyl­um-see­kers in flats pro­vi­ded by the coun­try­wi­de housing pro­gram ESTIA (the Emer­gen­cy Sup­port to Inte­gra­ti­on and Accom­mo­da­ti­on program).

The two orga­ni­sa­ti­ons call on the Euro­pean sta­tes not to exa­cer­ba­te the recep­ti­on cri­sis by Dub­lin trans­fers and the depor­ta­ti­on of reco­g­nis­ed refu­gees to Greece.

RSA and PRO ASYL sup­port the demands that a gene­rous relo­ca­ti­on pro­gram is nee­ded. This would be an act of huma­ni­ty and solidarity.