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  • SAO

Accommodation Situation of Asylum Seekers and Recognised Refugees in Greece

April is already here and alongside spring is marching. Spring leaving behind the hardships of winter often gives an optimistic feeling that things might become a bit better. Warmer weather, a bit more sun and the flourishing of the flowers is definitely heart-warming. Things might feel softer from one perspective, from another one though this is not enough to make the challenges that our clients have to face here in Greece softer - on the contrary the remain as harsh as ever.

We can still see that many challenges from 2022 still follow and the impact is profound for our clients, something that we can feel too, in our effort to create some scaffolding for them in order to feel a little bit more stable to move on in such a precarious and unbalanced era.

The Amina Centre is well known that for empowering women in their effort of inclusion into the Greek society. One of the first steps that needs to be secured is a vital part to integration: Accommodation. A roof over one’s head is what they need to take the next steps of their lives with confidence.

As Social Workers, accommodation is the first topic we discuss with the women when they first come to the Amina Centre. Most of them tell us that is a non-stop challenge for them and their families and their number one worry.

After the shutdown of the ESTIA Programme (see previous Blog), the only option that was given to them in case they couldn't secure a house by themselves was to return back to the camps. This decision has set so many people who just started to integrate way back. The impact is enormous since many families and individuals had begun to build their lives around their neighbourhood. They had created a network, had gotten a sense of community, had accessibility to public services, health care and food provision, had better chances to get a job and many of them actually succeeded. Their children went to public schools in the area and made friends with local children.

How bitter, to leave everything behind once again and to return to a refugee camp. This means returning back to overcrowded structures, to lower quality of life, to less access to services, to isolation - literally back to field one.

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Additionally to above mentioned issues, housing programs that were offered by some NGOs shut down one after the other and the remaining ones (most of them have vulnerability criteria) are overwhelmed and have long waiting lists.

Recognized refugees have the option to apply to the HELIOS Programme (Hellenic Integration Support for Beneficiaries of International Protection). HELIOS is famous for having very demanding entry criteria and bureaucratic hurdles to surmount. Right now, many clients of ours, state that they haven’t received any money since November 2022. This causes a chain of problems because they cannot afford to pay rent and bills which shakes their relationship with their landlords and sets them again on the edge of being kicked out and homeless again. Since Greece, like many countries around the world, has a housing crisis, rents are extremely high. It is therefore not easy to find a house at an affordable price and just as hard to find a cooperative landlord. Some of our clients managed to get a room in an apartment hosting their entire family with the support of their community but not all of them are lucky enough to get even that.

While Our women here at Amina in Athens have done their utmost to stand on their own two feet, the social workers worked hard to find new housing programmes and they keep in touch with the existing ones to ensure good communication and to be able to refer our clients to them.

In order to discuss the steps to a full integrational plan for our clients here in Greece, we need to accompany them taking the steps to stability and security. Many of them are in fear of where the next strike is going to come from that might throw all of their efforts into the trash can. Integration is a chain of links. Breaking one of the links means breaking off the whole process of integration. Accommodation support is number one priority, it is essential and vital and as professionals of SAO Association we are well aware of that and keep providing as much support as possible to our clients even if all odds seem to be against us.

written by Aloisia, Social Worker at the Amina Centre in Athens


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