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Greece To Limit Economic Assistance For Asylum Seekers

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Migrants and refugees at the Kara Tepe camp in Lesvos, September 2020. Credit: Greek Government

It was recently announced that asylum seekers and refugees in Greece will need to be housed in government facilities in order to qualify for economic assistance.

The Ministry of Migration and Asylum stated to the press that by July 1, 2021, all asylum seekers must be housed in Ministry housing or other Ministry-approved domiciles in order to be eligible for assistance.

The Ministry also said that those asylum seekers who are currently residing outside of Ministry housing and receive economic assistance should submit applications for housing. This means that all asylum seekers who cannot meet their own economic needs must now live in Ministry housing.

Ministry of Migration and Asylum takes control of assistance

These changes are partly due to the Ministry of Migration and Asylum gaining control over financial assistance by July 1st.

This used to be the responsibility of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

According to the Ministry, financial assistance will now be grouped with housing assistance for asylum seekers. Following the changes to the program, assistance will be conditional on individuals showing up in person monthly to prove that they still reside in Ministry housing.

Drop in number of asylum seekers

According to the UNHCR, the number of asylum seekers and refugees in Greece receiving assistance in March 2021 was 64,500.

However, according to Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis, more migrants are leaving than arriving in Greece currently.

Some islands, such as Samos, have even been met with no migrant arrivals in 2021 thus far.

This drop has also affected numbers in housing facilities, which currently house 56,000 people in comparison with last year’s 92,000. This has even impacted numbers at  notoriously overcrowded housing facilities, such as Kara Tepe on Lesvos.

Calls for asylum seekers’ assistance to be improved

There have been calls for the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers by Greek authorities to be examined and improved, with some alleging that migrants have been abused.

The fire at the Moria refugee camp on Lesvos in September 2020 was started by residents as a protest against living conditions there.

As noted by Luca Montana, the field coordinator of Doctors Without Borders for Moria camp, the 2018 BBC report on the camp called it “the worst refugee camp on Earth.”

Overcrowding at the camp continued into the Summer of 2020, which saw 20,000 people living in the Moria camp despite having an intended capacity of only 3,000.

The recent changes see the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum already processing housing requests from urban-dwelling asylum seekers who need continued financial assistance.

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