Athens, Greece - A new report by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) ‘The Time is Now: A plan to realise the potential of refugees in Greece’ shows that the future of more than 50,000 refugees already living there hangs in the balance. With proper integration support from the outset, those who have landed on Greek shores can become self-reliant, while simultaneously boosting the country’s economy.

Withholding integration support measures until a person’s refugee status is determined risks setting them on a path towards social exclusion, especially when this recognition can take years, leaving people to linger in refugee camps like Moria. Currently newly recognised refugees have just one month in which to find a new home, a job and rebuild their lives. To increase their prospects for success, Greece must do more to enable refugees to learn Greek, receive employment training and access the legal documents they need in order to move forward and rebuild their lives. 

Dimitra Kalogeropoulou, IRC Greece Director, said:

“Early support for asylum seekers in Greece will tip the balance from mere survival, to their ability to thrive in their new communities. Greece has an opportunity to reimagine its approach to integration by implementing a strategy that will help refugees become self-reliant.

“The outbreak of Covid-19 has left those who have sought refuge in Greece even more vulnerable to the effects of lockdown measures, and the unreliability of work. By allowing asylum seekers to access - among other things -  job opportunities, Greek language courses, and social security numbers, the government will boost their chances, while also supporting the   Greek economy. 

“The IRC is committed to ensuring that refugees and asylum seekers can thrive in their new homes and contribute to their local communities. In Greece, our teams have provided employment training to over 2,100 people since 2017, and almost 20% of those who have received career counselling have secured employment in sectors like tourism and hospitality. This success would be far greater had these people received support from the day they arrived in Greece. The barriers that asylum seekers face - including language and the lack of relevant documents for work - must come down.”

Greece must urgently implement its national strategy for integration, which should include a tangible action plan and ways to measure its success. Crucially, specific measures that recognise individual needs must be put in place for asylum seekers as they arrive in Greece, including interpretation services, language and cultural orientation classes. People must be supported to  access national services, including  a social security and tax number, as well as a bank account. These provisions would allow refugees to fully access their legal rights: employment, safe shelter, healthcare, and education opportunities. The inclusion of women and girls must be prioritised, with childcare options and opportunities for work and training that cater for their strengths and needs made available.

Since 2017, the IRC in Greece has provided employment and self-employment services and training to over 2,100 people. Our employment services in Athens include one-on-one career counselling, job readiness training seminars, weekly business Greek classes and group job search sessions.

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