22 December 2020

As winter closes in, thousands of refugees in Greece still face homelessness and destitution. While
winter always poses a challenge, this year is likely to become one of the most challenging yet due
to the ongoing pandemic, a deliberate decrease in the length of support for refugees, and the lack
of a comprehensive integration strategy and strategy against homelessness from authorities.
Around 11,000 people who were granted asylum were notified amidst a global pandemic that they
were going to face forced exits from apartments for vulnerable people (ESTIA), hotel rooms under
the Temporary Shelter and Protection program (FILOXENIA), accommodation in camps on the
islands and on the mainland. These forced exits follow a government policy where refugees are
forced to ‘stand on their own feet and fend for themselves’ within one month after protection
status is granted, resulting in an end to accommodation, access to food support, and EU funded
cash assistance.
The EU-funded HELIOS Integration Support program has enrolled 22,980 refugees, but so far only
9,203 people have been able to access rental subsidies. For a great number of people it will not be
possible or feasible to receive HELIOS support. Many refugees have been unable to access social
rights such as a social security number (PAAYPA), a tax number (AFM) or a bank account, necessary
to get a job or rent an apartment, because of bureaucratic obstacles, language barriers and
discrimination. The HELIOS program provides a good start but cannot substitute a comprehensive
integration strategy that takes into account that integration efforts need to start from the
reception stage.
Civil society organisations are especially concerned about the many vulnerable refugees who have
been forced to exit or are facing forced exits, including survivors of gender-based violence or
torture, people with health issues, including mental health, or disabilities, single women and
single-parent families, young adults, and people from the LGBTQ+ community. Many refugees
have difficulties or are unable to become self-sufficient because of vulnerabilities or problems
accessing essential services and the labour market. In the past, refugees who were asked to exit
state-provided accommodation ended up sleeping rough in urban areas or did not leave
accommodation out of fear of becoming homeless.
Problems with access to support and services are exacerbated for refugees in camps because of
ongoing Covid-19 restrictions and the often remote locations of these sites, making it nearly
impossible to search for housing, access services or find work. For many refugees in camps, food
insecurity is a constant risk as cash assistance is halted within one month while those not enrolled
in the HELIOS programme stop receiving food assistance. The announced transit sites for those
forced to exit their accomodation only provide a band-aid solution for some refugees and only
ever for a maximum of two months. This period is simply not enough for people to become
independent and without proper support, the number of homeless people in cities will increase.
Under embargo until 22nd of December 2020 (7 am EET)
Ultimately, there is a critical absence of a long-term sustainable strategy for integration and
inclusion in Greece that results in increased homelessness and destitution for many people—of
whom many are refugees. Civil society organisations call on the Greek government to:
● Urgently take pragmatic measures to ensure that refugees are not evicted during winter
and an ongoing pandemic. Focussing on prevention and early intervention and equal
access to public services, regarded as essential steps by the European Parliament to end
● Present a lasting strategy for social security and integration which includes access to
adequate and affordable housing, including social housing, to ensure the full and effective
enjoyment of human rights, in line with the EU Action plan on Integration and Inclusion.
● Engage in regular consultation and dialogue with civil society about integration as the EU
Action plan on Integration and Inclusion emphasised its necessity to achieve integration
and inclusion.


  1. Aachener Netzwerk für humanitäre Hilfe und interkulturelle Friedensarbeit e.V.
  2. AASIA
  3. Action for Education
  4. Action for Women
  5. ActionAid Hellas
  6. ANTIGONE – Information and Documentation Centre on Racism, Ecology, Peace and Non
  7. ARSIS – Association for the Social Support of Youth
  8. Better Days
  9. Centre Diotima
  10. Changemakers Lab
  11. Choose Love
  12. CRIBS International
  13. Dirty Girls of Lesvos
  15. ECHO100PLUS
  16. Ecological Movement of Thessaloniki
  17. Enough is Enough movement
  18. Equal Rights Beyond Borders
  19. Europe Must Act
  20. European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA)
  21. Faros
  22. Fenix Humanitarian Legal Aid
  23. foodKIND
  24. Gablitz hilft- Flüchtlingshilfe
    Under embargo until 22nd of December 2020 (7 am EET)
  25. Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)
  26. Greek Forum of Migrants
  27. Greek Forum of Refugees
  28. HERMINE e.V.
  29. HIAS Greece
  30. Humanity Now: Direct Refugee Relief
  31. HumanRights360
  32. Humans before Borders
  33. Indigo Volunteers
  34. Intereuropean Human Aid Association
  35. International Rescue Committee (IRC)
  37. INTERSOS Hellas
  38. InterVolve
  39. Jesuit Refugee Service Greece
  40. Lighthouse Relief (LHR)
  41. Love Welcomes
  42. Mare Liberum
  43. Mobile Info Team
  44. Network for Children’s Rights
  45. Odyssea
  46. One Family – No Borders
  47. One Happy Family
  48. Project Armonia
  49. ReFOCUS Media Labs
  50. Refugee Education and Learning International
  51. Refugee Legal Support (RLS)
  52. Refugee Rights Europe (RRE)
  53. Refugee Trauma Initiative
  54. Refugee Youth Service
  55. RefugeeEd
  56. Refugees International
  57. Samos Volunteers
  58. SAO Association for displaced women
  59. Second Tree
  60. ShowerPower Foundation
  61. SolidarityNow
  62. Soup & Socks e.V.
  63. Still I Rise
  64. Symbiosis – School of Political Studies in Greece, Council of Europe Network of Schools
  65. Terre des hommes Hellas
  66. Thalassa of Solidarity
  67. The Lava Project
  68. Three Peas
    Under embargo until 22nd of December 2020 (7 am EET)
  69. UK Must Act
  70. Velos Youth
  71. Verein FAIR.
  72. We Are Here
  73. Willkommen in Nippes
  74. Yoga and Sport For Refugees