IRC Hellas 2022 programmes

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About IRC Hellas

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) Hellas started operating in Greece in 2015, on the island of Lesvos, in response to the unprecedented number of refugees arriving on the island at the time.

Our mission at IRC Hellas is to help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster, to survive, recover and gain control of their future.

Our vision is to be recognised as a key civil society stakeholder supporting an expanded body of vulnerable people become empowered and thrive through inclusive, feminist-oriented and sustainable programs.

Since the start of programming in Greece, the IRC has provided support and protection services to people living in camps and urban settings. Directly, or in collaboration with partners, we have provided shelter, emergency supplies, safe transportation, access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, vital, reliable, and up-to-date information, protection for people with vulnerabilities, mental health and psychosocial support, as well as employability services to refugees, asylum-seekers and other vulnerable individuals in Greece.

Our work in Greece

Our team of professionals on humanitarian response and social services, is currently engaged in Athens and on the island of Lesvos, and until the first months of 2022 on Samos and Chios, and we provide nationwide up-to-date reliable information through Refugee.Info.

On Lesvos we provide Mental Health and Psychosocial Support and also services of Child Protection, Non-Formal Education and Cultural Orientation.

In Athens, we provide a variety of Child Protection, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support and Labour Market Integration services.

Our main programmes focus on:

Child Protection

Since August 2019, IRC Hellas has been implementing a child protection programme in Athens, which aims at supporting unaccompanied 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 children in Greece 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. Currently, IRC runs 12 SIL apartments, 7 of which are under the FUTURA project and funded by the European Economic Area (EEA Grants) 2014 - 2021 and 5 are funded by the National Asylum Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) 2021-2027.

Since April 2021, IRC Hellas has also been supporting efforts towards deinstitutionalisation in Greece, through the piloting of the Supported-Independent Living model of care for children above 15 years old and young adults who live under institutional care in Greece – irrespective of ethnic, racial or other characteristics. The project is implemented in the context of Child Guarantee, in partnership with UNICEF and in close collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the Institute of Child’s Health. The project provides three apartments in Athens, with the capacity to accommodate up to twelve people. In addition to safe housing, beneficiaries receive personalised psychosocial and educational support, legal counselling and recreational activities. The main goal of the project is to empower the beneficiaries to become autonomous and acquire the necessary skills for an independent and active life. Therefore, all services provided by the IRC aim at the development of life skills, including employability support, combined with counseling and career guidance.

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 reinforces 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 benefits all children, with a focus on children with vulnerabilities, such as migrants and refugees. Since June 2021, the project operates under the auspices of the Municipality of Athens.

Mental health

Since March 2018, IRC Hellas has been offering a comprehensive mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) programme, aiming to ensure that refugees and asylum seekers receive the MHPSS services they need to cope with past violence and persecution, and displacement. Some basic items such as snacks, refreshments and mobile phone top-up cards, are provided to our beneficiaries.

Where necessary, referrals to private psychiatrists, neurologists, and the local hospitals, as well as to NGOs for legal support, accommodation, and educational activities among others.  

In the context of the programme, education sessions are offered in different mental health topics with the goal of raising awareness regarding mental health problems, reducing stigma through the provision of information but also identifying people who are in need of mental health support.

Focus is also given to capacity building of other key actors (mental health professionals and other first responders: volunteers and employees of NGOs and public stakeholders) that work with refugees, to ensure improved quality of care and access to service provision for people in need of mental health care. 

Information

Born in 2015 as a mobile website, Refugee.Info provides critical information to thousands of asylum-seekers and refugees residing in Greece and/or travelling across Europe. It has since evolved into a unique, informative and trusted resource with 118,000 followers on Facebook in January 2022, for asylum seekers, refugees and other actors.

The programme provides information through the website and maintains a helpdesk through the Facebook page and a service mapping across Greece. Refugee.Info’s mission is to follow all the latest asylum procedures and COVID-19 updates that directly impact asylum seekers and refugees. Information is accurate, up-to-date, time-sensitive and timely shared through the website in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, French, English and Ukrainian.

Refugee.Info follows a strict escalation protocol to inquiries concerning protection cases, links the Refugee.Info with other online community groups based in refugee camps and urban areas in Greece, work with partners, NGOs, governments, refugees and asylum-seekers to make sure the information provided as useful as possible, and utilises text-to-speech technology to render all articles and service mapping pages more accessible to people with sight problems or low literacy.

Since April 2022, Refugee.Info, Mobile Info Team and Greek Forum of Refugees (GFR) are partnering up and join their forces to better meet the needs of asylum seekers and refugees in Greece. Refugee.Info continues to provide all the latest updates through the website in English, Arabic, Urdu, French, Farsi and Ukrainian. Mobile Info Team responds to all the messages received through the Refugee.Info Facebook Page in English, Arabic, Urdu, French, Farsi and if needed in Ukrainian too.

GFR supports in the identification of trends and information needs from various communities while also conducting a series of info sessions across the country with a goal to support formal and informal refugee and migrant communities across Greece to increase their representation capacities and where applicable acquire a legal entity status to better liaise with local authorities.

Economic Recovery and Development Programming

Since 2017, IRC Hellas has been providing, directly and in collaboration with partners, employment and self-employment services and skills development. The focus of the programme is to support refugees, migrants, and vulnerable locals, to integrate into the labour market.

Employability: The IRC provides employability services, such as individual career counselling, help with job search, and job readiness workshops that develop crucial 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, from IRC and its partners. 

Entrepreneurship: The IRC provides self-employment support to refugees, migrants, and vulnerable Greeks. In partnership with Alba Graduate Business School, the American College of Greece, the IRC implements “Craft your Business”, a business training and coaching program where clients receive business training and coaching and have the opportunity to apply for start-up grants and further technical and professional support.  Over 500 people have received entrepreneurship support to date. 

Finally, IRC Hellas collaborates with METAdrasi on the “HELIOS” refugee integration project, 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: The IRC supports the early integration and cultural orientation of refugees and asylum seekers on Lesvos, through survival Greek and English language courses, basic computer literacy and other cultural orientation and skills building activities.

Advocacy

IRC Hellas advocates in Greece and the EU 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, letters and press releases, which are addressed to decision makers to keep them aware of the reality on the ground and possible breaches of legislation and policies.

The advocacy team also organises meetings and drafts recommendations 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’, ‘The Cruelty of Containment: The Mental Health Toll of the EU’s Hotspot Approach on the Greek Islands’ and ‘A chance for a better future: Supported independent living and the protection of unaccompanied children in Greece’.

The advocacy team also produced the ‘Cookbook: Recipes from Home’ in December 2021, following cooking workshops the IRC held for refugees, asylum seekers and Greek people living on the island of Lesvos.

The advocacy team also cooperates with other NGOs to share information and produce joint briefings and reports. In 2021, IRC Hellas led on the report ‘For A Europe That Truly Protects: Joint NGO Policy Brief on the Screening Regulation Proposal’ and partnered with the organisation Common Ground, for the report ‘EU funding for the integration of migrants and refugees in Greece: Τhe clock is ticking’. IRC Hellas also co-authored ‘Walling off welcome: New reception facilities in Greece reinforce a policy of refugee containment and exclusion’ and ‘Relocation from Greece: Lessons learned and looking ahead’.

Finally, we  joined  efforts  with  Greek  Council  for  the  Refugees, Diotima and Popaganda in the project “Do the human right thing –Raising our Voice  for  Refugee  Rights”, to address the barriers that refugees and asylum seekers face in Greece, to access housing, employability and health services. In this context, we have published the report ‘Homeless and hopeless - An assessment of the housing situation of asylum applicants and beneficiaries of international protection in Greece’ and led on the report ‘Seeking a new life - seeking employment: An assessment of the employment situation of applicants and beneficiaries of international protection in Greece’.

Our impact in Greece

75

unaccompanied children provided housing through our 14 Supported Independent Living (SIL) apartments

The IRC's Supported Independent Living programme provides vital accommodation places for unaccompanied children in Greece and is considered quality alternative care, promoting 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.

More about the programme

4,475

mental health and psychosocial support sessions provided to 592 refugees on Lesvos, Chios and Samos

IRC Hellas provides comprehensive mental health and psychosocial support to ensure that vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers in Greece receive the support they need to heal from past violence and persecution and cope with the ongoing stress of displacement.

More information

636

refugees received specialised training and support last year in areas including career counselling and employability skills, self-employment and entrepreneurial skills, basic language and other soft skills training

Since 2017, IRC Hellas has been providing employment and self-employment services and skills development directly and in collaboration with partners. 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.

Stories from IRC Hellas

I just want a good future for my daughter and myself.
Illustration of Mojdeh and her daughter in front of a house
Mojdeh is an Afghan asylum seeker who fled to Greece with her young daughter. They remain living in limbo waiting to rebuild their lives.
Read Mojdeh's story
My future is unknown. It’s uncertain.
Illustration: Mehdi stands before a barbed wire fence at a CCAC camp on Samos
Mehdi lives behind barbed wire in a camp on the Greek island of Samos where like so many he struggles with the mental health consequences of the prison-like life.
Read Mehdi's story
“If you want people to become successful, give them respect and worth.”
Black and white photo of Ahmad standing against a window looking outside
Ahmad works as an interpreter with the IRC in Greece. An Afghan refugee, his life is on hold while he waits for his residency application to be renewed. He is using the time selflessly to assist asylum seekers, refugees & IRC staff everyday.
Read Ahmad's story