Refugees thrown to the streets: mass evictions in Greece

Refugees arriving on the island of Kos.
Refugees arriving on the island of Kos. Source: The Telegraph UK.

This past Monday, June the 1st, the eviction of 11,000 refugees has started all over Greece.

A new legislation

Following legislation approved in March of this year, people have now 1 month to leave their subsidized accommodations once their asylum status is recognized. Previously they had at least 6.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) considers that this time frame is insufficient to insert these people into employment or welfare programs.

(…) [The] UNHCR has continuously expressed concerns that assistance for many recognized refugees is ending prematurely, before they have an effective access to employment and social welfare schemes, foreseen by Greek law. Also, UNHCR has been urging Greece to increase the national reception capacity at sites, apartments, hotels and through cash for shelter.

Andrej Mahecic , UNHCR spokesperson.

This measure allegedly serves to make room for new refugees to arrive, but thousands of families will be thrown to the streets as a result. The purity of the Greek Government’s intensions is also soured by the fact that it hasn’t followed the UHNCR recommendation of increasing its reception capacity for new asylum seekers.

Forcing people to leave their accommodation without a safety net and measures to ensure their self-reliance may push many into poverty and homelessness. Most of the affected refugees do not have regular income. Many are families with school-aged children, single parents, survivors of violence, and others with specific needs. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and measures to reduce its spread create additional challenges. They are limiting people’s ability to move and find work or accommodation.

Andrej Mahecic , UNHCR spokesperson.

The Greek Police will mobilize to expell these people from their accommodations should they not comply with the new guidelines. An example is this announcement from the Island of Kos:

Photograph of sign explaining the eviction process for Refugees in the island of Kos.
Source: Katy Fallon

The Refugee Crisis

The conditions in the camps are questionable, as is their capacity to integrate refugees in Greek society and insert them in the labour market. These were created in 2016 as temporary facilities, yet are still in use. Furthermore, they are often geographically isolated with little in the way of public transportation. This report from the Greek Council for Refugees goes into detail on the subject.

Greece still has mandatory military service for men. This is often justified by its necessity to protect its borders external to the European Union. As per EU regulations, it boasts a civil service alternative based around volunteering, which could be a wonderful resource to help these people in need. However, this alternative is impracticable and its existence seems nothing short of a sham to avoid sanctions and fines.

The Refugee Crisis is still very much going on, despite being overshadowed by other current major world events. There is still a long way to go to create adequate support structures. The legislation in the EU will have to deal with it accordingly.

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