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Context We Work In

The Refugee Situation in Greece

Last update: June 2022

Greece has been since 2015 one of the main recipients of a significant number of people seeking protection and asylum.

According to UN statistics, most persons of concern come from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. Currently, there are about 112,000 recognized refugees and about 50,000 asylum seekers in Greece, about half of whom are women and girls*1.


Unable to cope, Greece has been operating a strict and oftentimes dysfunctional asylum and migration system that is also under system-wide strain. Border externalisation policies (initiated on March 18th, 2016, with latest development of this policy in October 2021), limited access to resources and an increasingly unfavourable reception both at the fringes of Europe and more centrally, have raised a multitude of issues ranging from Human Rights violations to practical problems such as scarce financial capability and accommodation security.

*1 UNHCR Factsheet Greece


The Greek asylum system operates on the premises that Turkey is a safe country for re-admission, but there has been no assumption of responsibility by Ankara Ankara - thus many asylum seekers remain in a state of oblivion on the arrival islands. In addition, displaced people in Greece face a suffocating paradox. Asylum seekers are affected by the implementation of territorial restrictions that keep people in a state of limbo on the islands close to the EU borders. At the same time, particularly vulnerable people and recognized refugees are sent to the mainland without being offered safety nets or concrete solutions for long-term integration. Either way displaced people are trapped in a vicious circle, and they not only feel but are literally powerless to fend for themselves and their loved ones.

The Unavoidable Consequences Are Numerous:

  • The increase of the gap between directly affected local communities that are becoming more hostile with displaced people and humanitarian actors

  • Displaced people are trapped in a state of limbo or alternatively a future with dim prospects of dignified survival

  • The gradual transformation of reception centres to closed and controlled camps lead to the ghetoisation of refugee populations

  • Stricter policies and state support limitations such as the termination of the already low financial aid to self-accommodated asylum seekers is another obstacle to the displaced peoples' efforts to be self-reliant and integrated

  • As a result of the war in Ukraine, displaced people from other countries are currently being relocated from urban centers (Athens, Thessaloniki) to peripheral camps where there are little to no opportunities for employment


The Situation of Displaced Women in Greece

Limited access to resources, structural inadequacies, overburdened or collapsed safety nets, barriers to legal representation and health and reproductive services, are only some of the obstacles displaced women have to overcome. Their voices are silenced and their abilities undervalued. They are routinely faced with heightened risks of gender-based violence, homelessness and unemployment.

How We Help

SAO Association assists women in their quest to rebuild their lives in safety and dignity in their new host environment by addressing their needs to their root and working with them to overcome trauma and unfavourable conditions and perceptions.


We run two day centres in Athens and on Lesvos where we implement a Psychosocial Support Programme for single women, mothers, young girls, widows, members of large households, disabled women and elderly. We help them manage traumatic experiences, regain their strength and maximise their capacities and skills and support their efforts to forge a safe, independent and fulfilling life away from adversity, suffering, sexual and gender- based violence.

Our Approach

We assist displaced women to achieve inclusion and gain autonomy - an approach that requires complex solutions and a synthesis of responses. Our teams of professional women are qualified to address this complexity, forge alliances and explore sustainable options together with the women who chose to trust us at a critical stage of their lives.

SAO Association supports displaced women living in Greece with concrete, efficient, neutral, and ethical resources to create a sustainable future. We help them self-empower, become agents of change, remove barriers and achieve integration in their new homes.

Learn More About Our Programmes:

Bashira Center Lesvos day center

Bashira Centre

The Bashira Centre on Lesvos offers emergency aid (hygiene articles, clothes, etc.), a safe space and a ray of hope in the dreary everyday life of refugees to particularly vulnerable women who are stuck in the refugee camp.

Amina Center Athens for refugee women

Amina Centre

In Athens, our Amina Centre is an important contact point for women who have been recognised as needing protection or have received Greek asylum. It offers refuge, orientation, and new perspectives through its psychosocial programmes.

Back on Track studies for refugee women

Back on Track

The programme Back on Track ranges from inclusive activities to language courses and workshops to support female students.


To promote the inclusion process, Back on Track starts specifically and early.

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