The Greek government has announced it will start asking people with refugee status or subsidiary protection to leave camps and UNHCR accommodation, starting with people who got their status before August 2017. Eventually, it will also end their access to cash assistance, Refugee.Info has learned.
Gradually, authorities will ask all people who have had refugee status or subsidiary protection for more than 6 months to leave camps and UNHCR accommodation, and gradually it will stop providing them with cash assistance, the Greek Ministry of Migration Policy said.
The Refugee.Info team is sorry to share this difficult news. Because we are an information service, and not an authority, our ability to help is limited — but we hope this post helps explain how the Greek government's decision could affect you.
If you are a refugee in Greece who lives in a camp or UNHCR accommodation and/or receives cash, you can click one of the 3 options below to learn more:
Note: If you got asylum before 2019, the date that matters is the date your decision was issued. You can find that date on your decision letter. Decision letters say "απόφαση" (circled in green) and the date is in the upper right-hand corner (circled in pink).
If you got asylum in 2019, under a new policy we expect to be in effect soon, the date that matters will be the date you found out you had been granted asylum.
Why did the government make this new policy?
The Greek government says it is not creating a new policy, just enforcing an existing policy. Under the policy, people lose access to camps and UNHCR accommodation and cash 6 months after they get refugee status or subsidiary protection.
That policy was made to meet the requirements of the European Union, which funds both the cash program and the UNHCR accommodation scheme. Under the European Union's rules, cash and accommodation are meant for asylum-seekers — people who don't yet have a decision on their asylum application.
Up to now the government hasn't enforced the 6-months policy strictly, recognizing that for many refugees in Greece, it is very difficult to find a place to stay and a way to support themselves financially.
Now, the Greek government says it has to enforce the policy because:
- Greece is still facing high numbers of new arrivals.
- The islands are overcrowded.
- There are not enough places in camps and UNHCR accommodation to meet the needs of asylum-seekers.
The decision came from the Greek Directorate for the Protection of Asylum Seekers, the General Secretariat for Migration Policy and the Ministry of Migration Policy.
If you have refugee status or subsidiary protection in Greece that the Asylum Service issued on or before July 31, 2017, unfortunately these new changes will affect you in the coming months.
Here is what the Greek Ministry of Migration Policy announced to UNHCR and organizations, in a meeting on January 30, 2019:
If you live in UNHCR accommodation or a camp
If you got refugee status or subsidiary protection in Greece on or before July 31, 2017, you will have until March 31, 2019, to leave your UNHCR accommodation or camp, the Greek government said. Under the new policy:
- If you leave by March 31, 2019, you will get 3 more months of cash (April, May and June). Then, your cash will end.
- If you do not leave by March 31, 2019, your cash will stop right away.
Some people have already received notice of the changes, while others in accommodation and camps will receive this notice soon, the Greek government said.
If you live in private accommodation and have a cash card
If you received refugee status or subsidiary protection in Greece on or before July 31, 2017, your cash will stop after your June 2019 payment.
Under some circumstances, you will be able to stay longer in your accommodation and continue getting cash assistance.
If you or a family member is very vulnerable
You and your family can ask to stay longer (but not permanently) if:
- You have an incurable or chronic illness, and no family member can provide you with the care you need. In this case, you can stay in your accommodation until you are referred to an appropriate public health or rehabilitation facility.
- You have a health issue so serious that moving out of accommodation would put your life at risk.
- As of March 31, 2019, you are 7 months pregnant.
- As of March 31, 2019, you are pregnant and at risk of miscarriage.
- As of March 31, 2019, you have a baby 2 months old or younger.
To prove that your health condition is serious enough to extend your stay, or to verify your pregnancy or recent birth, you will need to go through a medical assessment and vulnerability assessment.
For people in UNHCR accommodation, UNHCR and its partner organizations will conduct the assessments — and make the final decision on whether you can stay. For people in camps, site management teams will conduct the assessments and make final decisions.
As long as you are staying in accommodation, your family can stay with you, and you will continue to get cash.
If you have children enrolled in school
If you have children who are enrolled in schools near the camp or accommodation where you live, you don't have to leave until the school year ends in June. You will also still get cash until the end of the school year.
If you have refugee status or subsidiary protection in Greece that the Asylum Service issued between August 1, 2017, and December 31, 2018, you will eventually be asked to leave your camp or UNHCR accommodation, and you will eventually lose access to cash assistance, the Greek government said.
The authorities have not set a schedule for when they will ask people to leave UNHCR accommodation and camps, but most likely they will do so in several rounds, according to when you got asylum in Greece.
There is also no schedule for when cash assistance will stop for people in this group, but the agency that provides your cash card should let you know before ending your cash assistance.
The authorities also haven't announced who will be able to ask for an exception, but we think it is likely that authorities will use similar criteria to the criteria they are using for people who got asylum on or before July 31, 2017.
As soon as we know more, we will share it with you.
We expect that the Greek government will soon issue a ministerial decision that sets a policy for anyone who is notified in 2019 that they have refugee status or subsidiary protection.
According to unofficial but reliable information that Refugee.Info got from the Ministry of Migration Policy, under the upcoming decision, refugees will have 6 months after getting asylum to continue staying in camps and UNHCR accommodation and continue getting cash assistance. After the 6 months, they will be asked to leave their camp or UNHCR accommodation and will stop getting cash.
Most likely, the clock on your 6 months will start the day you learn about your asylum decision, not the date on your decision letter. For example, if you visit the Asylum Service to renew your Full Registration card and discover that day that you have been granted asylum or subsidiary protection, you will have 6 months from that day before you have to leave accommodation and lose cash.
What options do I have after leaving accommodation?
The Greek authorities announced that they are designing activities to help recognized refugees integrate into Greek society, but they haven’t finalized a plan yet.
Finding a place to stay
Greece doesn’t have a social housing scheme that provides people with affordable housing, so the only option is to rent an apartment. You can find information on how to privately rent an apartment in Greece here.
Accessing social welfare services
Accessing the national social welfare system in Greece is also difficult, even for vulnerable Greeks who need help supporting their families, due to Greek bureaucracy and strict eligibility criteria.
However, to find out how you and your family could access the national welfare system, you can visit the nearest Center for Integration for Refugees and Migrants (KEM).
📍Find a list of KEMs in Greece here.
If there isn’t a KEM near you, you can visit your local social services office — each municipality has one. Unfortunately, you need to speak Greek to talk to the staff, so you may have to ask a Greek friend to accompany you to the office.
Finding a job
Greece is a country with an official unemployment rate of over 20%, and we acknowledge that it’s really hard to find a job, especially when you don’t speak the language.
We gathered together all the information that could help you in your search for a job in Greece. Find out more about:
In the meantime, you can register as unemployed with the national organization for the unemployed (OAED) and get the benefits the unemployment card offers.
The Refugee.Info team will keep researching every available option for you, and we will share information about any development that could help you in this difficult transition phase.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to message us on Facebook. We will do our best to get you answers as soon as possible.