On Monday, September 3, the Athens cash office staff started issuing cash cards to people on the waiting list who completed the verification process.
They are prioritizing those who have been waiting the longest.
UNHCR estimates that around 240 new cash cards have been issued so far.
As protesters continue to occupy the cash office at Akominatou Street, the organizations that manage the Athens cash assistance program are now working from a remote location to work on clearing the cash card backlog.
UNHCR is responsible for cash assistance in Greece, while its partners CRS and Caritas process applications and issue cards to qualified applicants in urban Athens.
They’ve also assigned colleagues from other departments to work on cash assistance, in order to call and certify all 2,900 people on the waiting list.
According to CRS, they’ve called everyone on the waiting list.
They told us approximately half the people they called didn’t respond or couldn’t be reached.
If you are on the waiting list but haven’t heard from CRS, they may not have been able to reach you because your contact information changed.
The Athens cash organizations said they would soon announce a time when they would like people to call and update their contact information.
Cash officers said they are not ready to receive these calls right away.
Can I now register for cash cards?
For the time being, CRS said, they are not taking any new registrations until they finish processing the backlog of applications. They don’t know how long that will take.
Why can’t they just hire more staff?
UNHCR and CRS told Refugee.Info that they can't hire any more cash staff because of rules related to their funding.
When will the Athens cash office open?
The Athens cash office remains closed due to the occupation by protesters that started in early August.
UNHCR confirmed to Refugee.Info that it is still having conversations with protesters, who said recently that they would be willing to leave the Athens cash office soon.
Protesters are now more willing to leave after meeting with a representative from the Greek Ministry of Migration Policy, Ilias Miltiadis Klapas, UNHCR said.
Klapas promised that the ministry would seriously consider refugees’ demand for cash assistance for homeless people and others without a permanent address.
However, the cash team said that even when the occupiers leave, they will need around two weeks to get the office ready.
Is the cash hotline working?
The Greece Cash Alliance Hotline is still operational, but these days the lines are busy during working hours.
Cash officers are advising callers to be patient and persistent when calling the hotline, and to provide the most valid and accurate contact information possible when someone picks up.
This is the only way they can call you back.
As of now, the office help desk is closed, and there is no other place to request support with your cash card in person.
I heard UNHCR and CRS opened another office in Exarchia. Is that true?
No. A couple weeks ago, after we reported that all Athens cash office operations had stopped, some of you told us that cash officers were working from a new cash office.
We heard you and investigated, and found out that cash staff were working from a space called The Cube in Exarchia for one week only — but they weren’t issuing cash cards.
According to UNHCR and CRS, cash staff were using The Cube to screen people on the waiting list for eligibility to avoid additional delays.
People approved at the alternate space will get cash cards once CRS starts issuing cards again, the organization told us.
But CRS stopped working from The Cube a few weeks ago.
I've been receiving cash for a few months now, but this month I didn't. Why is that?
If you were approved for cash assistance but your documents are about to expire or you had a paper or detail missing during the application process, you may need to get verified in person.
In some other cases, people with cash cards may need to go through the verification process every month in order to keep receiving cash.
The cash office will continue the verification process exclusively over the phone until the Athens cash office is back open.
If you were previously receiving cash but didn’t get any this month, cash officers may have tried to call you but couldn’t reach you.
You can report this by calling the hotline at the numbers below.
Phone number for all languages: +302103300170
WhatsApp and Viber numbersfor Arabic or French: +306944514441
For all other languages: +306940716099
Hours: Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
We’ll keep you posted.
Refugee.Info will continue to follow the situation as it develops, and let you know once the cash hotline starts taking registrations again.
We know how important cash information is, especially because so many of you have been waiting a really long time for a cash card.
Thank you to everyone sending us updates about the cash situation in Athens. Any time you tell us there’s more to the story, we’ll look into it.
Note: Unfortunately Refugee.Info can’t register you for cash cards — we can only provide information.
All photos by Daphne Tolis.