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Displaced People Lose their Homes as ESTIA Accommodation Programme Closes

Ever since the announcement of the closing of the ESTIA Programme, vulnerable displaced people have been forced to leave their apartments and move back to harsh living conditions in camps – if they aren't able to find a new apartment in urban areas, their only alternative to life in the camp is homelessness in the city. Many beneficiaries of the SAO daycentres are affected by this as well.

Graphic: Carol Gaessler for "The Greats"

The ESTIA programme (Emergency Support to Integration and Accommodation Programme) offered vulnerable displaced people another housing solution apart from the mass accommodation in camps through containers, which are often far away from the cities. ESTIA provided dignified living conditions in apartments in urban areas, which improved the daily lives of refugees and asylum seekers in Greece, facilitating their access to services, including education and health. This helped the beneficiaries to restore a sense of normality again and facilitated integration in Greece.

Priority for this programme was given to those who belong to vulnerable groups, i.e. families with minor children, direct relatives of shipwreck victims (parents and siblings), people with disabilities, elderly, pregnant women, single-parent families with minor children, survivors of trafficking, people with serious illnesses, people with mental disabilities and survivors of torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence.

In 2021, the ESTIA accommodation program was hosting 27’000 asylum seekers.

In the beginning of the year, ESTIA was announced to be closed by the end of 2022. This means that those vulnerable people are expelled from their homes and transferred to camps in remote areas, which condemns them to harsh living conditions and undermines every integration effort they have made.

The evictions have started: Since April, people living in the ESTIA programme have been receiving letters telling them a date by which they had to have left their apartments. On the islands, the programme is already finished.

Most of our beneficiaries in the Amina Centre are affected by the closing of the ESTIA programme. Some of them accepted to move back to the camps far away from the city. In this case, we support them remotely and try to help them in finding information and ways how to best adapt to the new situation. Others refused to be transferred to the camps and stayed in the city, which means that many of our beneficiaries are returning to a previous stage of temporary hosting, dependence on people who are not evaluated/supervised as hosts, in line with others for limited supply of accommodation by grassroots organisations and overwhelmed community centres. We support them in their search for new dignified accommodation and provide resourceful alternatives that are secure and in proximity to job opportunities and vital services.

This way, we support our beneficiaries in investigating options that respect their decisions and priorities.

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