Refugees in Greece face homelessness

Thousands of refugees in Greece are at risk of homelessness since their right to stay in temporary accommodation expired on June 1. It is the result of a new law passed in November 2019 and adopted in March 2020, which reduces the grace period for recognized refugees from six months to 30 days. The eviction aims to make room for new asylum seekers, according to Greek authorities.

Some 9,000 people, recognized as refugees, are currently affected for the new law, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and another 11,000 people will be in the same situation in the coming months. “Forcing people to leave their accommodation without a safety net and measures to ensure their self-reliance may push many into poverty and homelessness,” UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic warned at the Palace of Nations in Geneva on June 2.

Some families were time given until the end of June to vacate their EU-funded apartments. They are people who have already obtained refugee status and live in flats under the Emergency Support to Integration and Accommodation (ESTIA) program. This scheme, funded by the EU, provides temporary accommodation and cash assistance to asylum-seekers. Greek authorities justify their decision explaining that this scheme was designed for asylum seekers and once they are granted as refugees they “should find jobs”, according to Manos Logothetis, the migration ministry’s asylum secretary quoted by AFP agency. Some refugees are being also moved from hotels and camps.

There is a separate integration program, run by the International Organization for Migration in Greece called HELIOS that supports migrants with accommodation, job-seeking and language courses. Still, it can assist only 3,500 people at a time.