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Lack of effective integration policy exposes refugees in Greece to homelessness and destitution, while returns from European countries continue

Refugee protest against ESTIA evictions, 27/5/2020 , Athens

The legal and political developments in the Greek asylum system over the past year have had significant repercussions on the enjoyment by beneficiaries of international protection of rights attached to their protection status. Under the amended Article 114 of the International Protection Act (IPA),[1] beneficiaries of international protection in Greece cease to be eligible for material reception conditions in kind and in the form of financial allowances immediately upon issuance of a positive decision on their asylum application. As a rule, they have 30 days to leave their accommodation place. In light of this, the Ministry of Migration and Asylum has announced that all persons to whom a decision granting international protection has been notified prior to 1 May 2020 are required to leave their accommodation place by 1 June 2020.[2] UNHCR and civil society have warned against these measures, arguing that the termination of support to beneficiaries of international protection will expose people to homelessness, especially against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On 29 May 2020, the Ministry of Migration and Asylum acknowledged the need to review the HELIOS programme and to better connect status holders with the national authorities responsible for employment (OAED) and social assistance (OPEKA),[3] without however revisiting the impending evictions from reception facilities or introducing effective integration measures for beneficiaries of international protection. Accordingly, as of 1 June 2020, the authorities will gradually proceed to the eviction of 11,237 people, including particularly vulnerable groups such as single-parent families and persons suffering from chronic conditions, from ESTIA apartments, Reception and Identification Centres, camps and hotels, where they were initially residing as asylum seekers.

RSA & PRO ASYL stress that, under the current conditions, thousands of people are at risk of homelessness without any prospect of support, due to a lack of an effective integration programme and to chronic and persistent barriers and discrimination against refugees as regards access to basic social rights. In addition, the current policy of the Greek government shifts away from what was already limited and ineffective integration support to an approach expecting immediate autonomy and self-sufficiency of people granted international protection. As stated by the Minister of Migration and Asylum in April 2020, persons obtaining a protection status in Greece “are obliged from that point on to fend for themselves, as does every citizen”.[4]

RSA & PRO ASYL recall that the Greek State should guarantee that beneficiaries’ access to social rights should be effective in practice and not theoretical, and any necessary measure should be taken in order to protect them from homelessness and destitution.

RSA & PRO ASYL remind the Greek authorities that the 11,237 beneficiaries at risk of destitution are added to status holders who have never benefitted from material reception conditions or have had those terminated, and who struggle with destitution and live unofficially in camps or in inappropriate housing solutions without effective support, even where they are vulnerable.

Given the lack of an effective integration policy guaranteeing real access to rights, serious administrative barriers and differential treatment of beneficiaries of international protection prevents them from enjoying equal treatment to Greek nationals. Furthermore, serious gaps in the Greek social system, coupled with the ramifications of austerity measures and high unemployment rates, render the enjoyment of rights even more difficult for beneficiaries.

RSA & PRO ASYL have also monitored cases of beneficiaries who have been returned by other European countries and live homeless in Athens without any prospect of support, despite having tried to access housing and social welfare. Today, RSA & PRO ASYL submitted a third party intervention before the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Darwesh v. Greece and the Netherlands.[5] The case concerns a Syrian family recognised in 2017 and at risk of return back to Greece in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). In their intervention, RSA & PRO ASYL analyse current practice and obstacles encountered by beneficiaries of international protection in the areas of housing, employment, social welfare and health care, including from the perspective of persons returned from other European countries.

Throughout 2019, Greece received 1,714 readmission requests and 286 readmissions of beneficiaries of international protection, among which 26 families. In the first four months of 2020, readmissions continued at similar pace with 585 requests and 42 readmissions, among which 2 families.[6] Beyond these figures, an unknown of number of beneficiaries of international protection have voluntarily departed for Greece after being notified by other states an order to leave the country.

RSA & PRO ASYL recall that the responsibility to protect refugees from treatment contrary to Article 3 ECHR and Article 4 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union is not only incumbent on Greece but also on other countries carrying out readmission of beneficiaries of international protection to Greece. Under the current context, European Union Member States and Schengen Associated States should suspend readmissions of beneficiaries of international protection to Greece.


  1. Article 114(1) IPA, as amended by Article 111 Law 4674/2020.
  2. Ministry of Migration and Asylum, ‘Παροχή διευκρινίσεων ως προς τις προθεσμίες αποχώρησης από τις θέσεις στέγασης και τις δομές υποδοχής και φιλοξενίας’, No 132, 22 May 2020, on file with the author.
  3. Ministry of Migration and Asylum, ‘Αποχώρηση αναγνωρισμένων προσφύγων και μη δικαιούχων ασύλου από το ελληνικό σύστημα υποδοχής’, 29 May 2020, available in Greek at: .
  4. Ministry of Migration and Asylum, ‘Μείωση των δομών το 2020, με επιτάχυνση των διαδικασιών ασύλου και επιστροφών’, 25 April 2020, available in Greek at: . Unofficial translation of the author.
  5. European Court of Human Rights, Kurdestan Darwesh and others v. Greece and the Netherlands, App No 52334/19, Communicated on 29 January 2020, available at: .
  6. The majority of readmission requests in the period January 2019 – April 2020 have been submitted by Germany (1,277), followed by Switzerland (255) and the Netherlands (229). Information provided by the Readmission Unit, Directorate of Migration Management, Hellenic Police, 11 May 2020.

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