June 01, 2020
Refugees' mass eviction in Greece
Today some 11,000 refugees will have to leave camps and UNHCR accommodation in Greece. Under current migration legislation, everyone with recognised refugee status must leave camps and subsidised facilities and find their own accommodation and a job. This legislation was put in place to be compliant with EU rules. Authorities have not strictly enforced this law before. Now they want to make room for the new wave of refugees who have arrived on the islands. According to KT Greece, despite having secured asylum, some 6500 refugees are currently living in subsidised apartments or hotels, another 2500 are in reception facilities on the mainland, and 1500 are still living in island-based camps.
Where will they go? The pandemic and the ensuing recession will not make it any easier for them to find jobs and shelter. Some may leave Greece, but many others could end up on the streets. Social integration has not been a strong point in Greece's migration policy. Instead, the country had been focusing on reception of incoming refugees and processing asylum applications.
The Greek government says it is not creating a new policy, just enforcing an existing one. Under this policy, people lose access to camps, and to UNHCR accommodation and cash, 6 months after they get refugee status or subsidiary protection. This policy was reportedly put into place to meet the requirements of the European Union, which funds both the cash programme and the UNHCR accommodation scheme. Under the European Union's rules, cash and accommodation are meant for asylum-seekers, people who don't yet have a decision on their asylum application.
Up to now the government hadn't enforced the 6-month policy strictly. This recognised that, for many refugees in Greece, it is very difficult to find a place to stay and a way to support themselves financially.
The government claims that some of the refugees could be eligible for the Helios integration support programme, however, its capacity is set at just 5000 people, with 1500 places already taken up. Today's mass eviction is creating tensions also within the governing party. Last week the mayor of Athens voiced strong concerns over the potential impact on urban homelessness, writes Macropolis.