Our team of professionals in the field of humanitarian response, is currently engaged on the islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos, as well as Athens, and we provide nationwide up-to-date reliable information on Refugee.Info. On Lesvos, Chios and Samos, we provide Mental Health and Psychosocial Support while on Lesvos we also provide emergency assistance (Water Sanitation & Hygiene, Site Management Support & Shelter, COVID-19 prevention), as well as services of Child Protection, Women’s Protection and Empowerment and Education and Cultural Orientation Support. In Athens, we provide a variety of services regarding Child Protection and Labour Market Integration. Our main programmes focus on:
Since August 2019, IRC Hellas has been implementing a child protection programme in Athens, which aims at supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children -16 years old and above - to become self-reliant and transition smoothly into adulthood. The Supported Independent Living (SIL) programme provides vital accommodation places for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in apartments and is considered quality alternative care, which promotes individualised support, in line with the best interests of each child. Each apartment hosts up to four children of mixed nationalities, supported by a team of experienced professionals, such as social workers, caretakers, interpreters and lawyers. At the moment, the IRC runs 15 SIL apartments for asylum-seeking adolescents, 10 of which are under the FUTURA project and 5 are supported by the National Program of the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund with the co-financing of the Hellenic Republic and the European Union. In April 2021, IRC Hellas started the implementation of the pilot phase of the Supported-Independent Living (SIL) programme for Greek children, in five apartments. This is the first SIL programme supporting and providing holistic and personalised care to adolescents of Greek origin, living in institutions.
In October 2020, an IRC team consisting of case workers and interpreters started an emergency child protection programme in the new Lesvos Reception and Identification Centre (Mavrovouni RIC) and three main tasks: outreach, case management, and psychological counseling. Through outreach activities, the team screens the camp population through visits at their tents and, if protection concerns are identified and a child is deemed to be at risk, the case management begins. The team develops a case plan based on the identified needs and offers services directly through the provision of psychosocial support and indirectly through referrals to other actors including health, educational or legal organisations, and/or the Public Prosecutor.
In January 2021, under the coordination of Terre des hommes Hellas and in partnership with the Municipality of Milan, IRC Hellas joined the 'REEC: Reinforce Educators, Empower Children' project. The project will forge a protection response, reinforcing capacities of Early Childhood Development and primary school educators, as well as child protection practitioners’ capacities to detect and provide responsive services to children experiencing or at risk of adverse childhood experiences. The project will benefit all children, with a focus on vulnerable social groups, such as migrants and refugees.
Since March 2018, IRC Hellas has been offering a comprehensive mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) programme aiming to ensure that vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers in Greece receive the MHPSS services they need to heal from past violence and persecution and cope with the ongoing stress of displacement. The programme focuses on providing services to asylum seekers that reside in the Reception and Identification Centers (RICs) on Lesvos, Chios, and Samos. The IRC psychologists provide counselling services to asylum seekers and refugees at the IRC MHPSS offices located in the towns of Mytilene (Lesvos), Chios and Vathy (Samos). Caseworkers provide individual escort to appointments and ensure appropriate case management such as identification of needs and, where necessary, referrals to private psychiatrists, neurologists and the local hospitals, as well as to the UNHCR for safe accommodation and other NGOs for legal support. The IRC collaborates with private psychiatrists and neurologists when needed and covers the costs of psychiatric medication for people who do not have access to the relevant national Greek social security documentation (PAAYPA) to acquire medicine for free or at low cost.
IRC MHPSS teams further provide psychosocial support services, including community engagement activities (namely, mental health awareness and psychoeducation activities) to reach more individuals and prevent increased distress and suffering. Further focus is given to capacity building of other key actors (mental health professionals and other first responders from NGOs and public authorities) that work in and outside the RICs, to ensure improved quality of care and access to service provision for people in need of mental health care. In addition, IRC’s MHPSS team safeguard the wellbeing of refugee and asylum seekers through collaboration and supporting some basic needs (i.e. snacks and mobile phone top-up cards, laundry services).
During the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying movement restrictions, most of the IRC MHPSS individual support services have been provided remotely (tele-therapy) as part of adapted programming to continue offering services while adhering to public health guidelines.
IRC Hellas has been present in the municipal refugee camp of Kara Tepe since its establishment in 2015. In late 2019, IRC started supporting vulnerable groups at Moria Reception and Identification Center, to better prepare them for the upcoming winter, by providing much needed heating equipment, tents, as well as a power generator. Since the fires destroyed Moria RIC, the IRC moved and expanded its response to the new RIC in Mavrovouni.
Accommodation, WASH, Shelter & Site Management Support in Kara Tepe Municipal camp: This project aims to provide quality, functional infrastructural maintenance including Site, Shelter and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities, Site Management Support (SMS) as well as hygiene promotion and transportation services, for up to 1,210 people that reside in the Kara Tepe open accommodation site of the Municipality of Mytilene on Lesvos. Moreover, the IRC has established a quarantine area inside the site, to safely isolate newcomers from the rest of the community and minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Environmental health, WASH promotion and COVID-19 prevention and response in Mavrovouni RIC: Following the complete destruction of Moria RIC by fires in September 2020, the IRC moved its operations in the emergency RIC in Mavrovouni, supporting a population of about 7,000 people with Environmental Health, WASH promotion and COVID-19 prevention and response.
The IRC builds on and improves WASH in the emergency RIC in Mavrovouni and ensures that water sources are clean and sustainable, while waste and sanitation are implemented in a way that does not negatively impact the environment. This includes water sampling, testing and analysis and treatments of drinking water when needed. Additionally, the IRC, with the support of community volunteers, focuses on raising awareness to reduce the transmission of WASH-related diseases, with special emphasis on COVID-19 prevention, through handwashing and solid waste management campaigns, proper use of masks, distribution of essential hygiene items, key messages for COVID-19 and skin diseases prevention, menstrual hygiene management and children’s activities related to key hygiene messages. The IRC WASH team tries to engage the community to good hygiene practices with the construction of water points and create a safer and more comfortable space for the women and girls by constructing ‘menstrual hygiene management facilities’, which are safe, private spaces to change and wash.
In addition, the IRC supports environmental health and hygiene promotion activities in the new quarantine site for new arrivals, Megala Therma, located in northern Lesvos.
Born in 2015 as a mobile website, Refugee.Info provides critical information to thousands of asylum-seekers in Greece and travelling across Europe. It has since evolved into a unique multi-channel platform with 118,581 followers on Facebook in February 2021. IRC keeps Refugee.Info up-to-date in order to capture changes in procedures, policies or practices that might be impacted by COVID-19 measures or administrative changes and shares information in eight languages: Arabic, Farsi, French, Lingala, Urdu, Somali, Kurmanji and English. It also provides service mapping across Greece, produces content for the Facebook page across these eight languages and provides two-way communication through a helpdesk (Facebook messenger). Refugee.Info follows a strict escalation protocol when receiving inquiries about protection cases, links the Refugee.Info Facebook page with refugee and asylum-seeker Facebook and other social media groups based in RICs, sites, and urban areas in Greece and utilizes text to speech technology to render all articles and service mapping pages in French, Arabic, Farsi, and English more accessible to people with sight problems or low literacy.
The focus of IRC’s Economic Recovery and Development team is to support refugees, migrants and vulnerable host populations with integration - especially into the labour market. Since 2017, IRC Hellas has been providing directly and in collaboration with partners employment and self-employment services and skills development.
Employability: The IRC directly and together with its partners, the Municipality of Athens and the Network for Children Rights provides employability services, such as individual career counselling, help with job search, and job readiness workshops that develop crucial employability skills, as well as an introduction to labour rights and familiarisation with Greek work culture. Over 2,000 people have received employability support to date. IRC Hellas has also partnered with the Municipality of Athens for the European piloting program “Curing the Limbo: From apathy to active Citizenship” to assist and further improve refugees’ employability chances. Gained skills are crucial for all people, who need to kick start their professional career. Along with the Network for Children’s Rights and Laughter’s Guild, the IRC implements “PROSVASIS”, a project aiming to empower adolescents to a more active and positive way of living their lives as future young adults. The project covers a holistic package of job counselling, formal and non-formal education and multi-level support helping teens and youth discover new opportunities.
Entrepreneurship: The IRC provides self-employment support to refugees, migrants, and vulnerable Greeks. Over 450 people have received entrepreneurship support to date.
Finally, IRC Hellas also collaborates with METAdrasi and the National Research Center, on the national pilot programme “HELIOS”, to provide cultural orientation, create educational material and prepare beneficiaries of international protection living in Athens with life, cultural and job readiness skills.
Education and Cultural Orientation support, Lesvos: The IRC also supports the early integration and cultural orientation of refugees and asylum seekers on Lesvos through (a) support in navigating public services and accessing relevant national Greek documentation (b) provision of survival Greek and English language courses, basic computer literacy and other cultural orientation and skills building and (c) referrals to other formal on non-formal adult educational opportunities aiming and skills improvement and empowerment. IRC Hellas also works to promote awareness of the local community through face-to-face interventions and sessions will also work with local low-income individuals through the provision of job readiness training to support the acquisition of market-relevant skills.
Following the Moria fire in September 2020 and the emergency situation on the island of Lesvos, the IRC started offering prevention activities, emergency accommodation, case management and legal services to gender-based violence survivors and women at high risk of experiencing violence, through implementing partners. Additionally, key Women’s Protection and Empowerment staff members offer ongoing support to ensure gender mainstreaming and a gender sensitive approach in all IRC Hellas programmes.
IRC Hellas advocates in Greece and abroad for the protection of the rights of asylum seekers and refugees regarding asylum procedures, reception conditions, protection, access to information and integration. Working in close cooperation with the IRC programmes in Greece, the advocacy team conducts research and compiles reports, briefings and letters, which are addressed to decision makers to keep them aware of the reality on the ground and possible breaches of legislation and policies, and provide recommendations. The advocacy team also organises meetings and public events to push for the full respect of asylum seekers and refugees’ rights. The most recent IRC Hellas reports are ‘The Time is Now: a Plan to realise the potential of refugees in Greece’ and ‘The Cruelty of Containment: The Mental Health Toll of the EU’s Hotspot Approach on the Greek Islands’.
The advocacy team also cooperates with other NGOs to share information and produce joint briefings and reports. In 2021, IRC Hellas has partnered with Common Ground, to conduct research on the funding available for integration activities in Greece and produce a report with the findings.
Special thanks to our donors for their trust and for setting the base for a better future, from harm to home, for refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable people in need.
- UNHCR - United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
- European Commission DG JUST - Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers
- EEA Grants Asylum and Migration programme for Greece operated by SOL Crowe in collaboration with HumanRights360
- "Solidarity, Equability, Protection” National Program of the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund with the co-financing of the Hellenic Republic and the European Union
- Stavros Niarchos Foundation
- Citi Foundation
- Stitching Vluchteling
- Malcom Hewitt Weiner Foundation
- Latter-Day Saint Charities
- Macquarie Foundation
- Center for Disaster Philanthropy
- Municipality of Athens as part of the Curing the Limbo project co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) initiative.
- METAdrasi – Action for Migration and Development as part of the Hellenic Integration Support for Beneficiaries of International Protection – HELIOS project supported by IOM Greece
- Network for Children’s Rights as part of the PROSVASIS project supported by EEA Grants Active Citizens Fund Operated by Bodossaki Foundation in consortium with SolidarityNow