Thousands of refugees are at risk of being left homeless by the abrupt termination of an EU-funded program providing cash assistance and temporary shelter to people granted asylum in Greece
Appeals from aid groups have mounted, amid fears more than 2,000 men, women and children will face destitution if action isn’t taken.
“It’s extremely concerning that recognized refugees in Greece are being turned on to the streets amidst a global pandemic,” said Imogen Sudbery, the International Rescue Committee’s director of policy and advocacy in Europe. “Without necessary documentation, access to information, language skills or other essential means of becoming self-reliant they are at grave risk of becoming homeless and unemployed.”
Deprived of any safety net, families forced to leave organized accommodation have resorted in recent weeks to sleeping rough in parks and public squares.
Working contracts for hotels hosting recognized refugees under the EU-funded Filoxenia program first ended in December, with other hotels following suit in January and February.
About 750 men, women and children are due to exit the temporary shelters in the coming days as the scheme finally wraps up, according to the IRC.
“What we’re seeing reflects the wholesale lack of national integration policy that, incredibly, is still a problem so many years after this crisis began,” said Lefteris Papagiannakis who focuses on refugee issues at the NGO Solidarity Now. “They’re images we’ve seen before, and will see again, unless real efforts are made to include these people in our society.”
Integration of the estimated 80,000 refugees in Greece is now regarded as the single biggest challenge for a country long on the frontline of migrant flows from Asia, Africa and the Middle East.