There is no set time frame regarding beneficiaries’ right to stay in the Reception Centre, however persons are informed and urged by the Asylum Service to expedite their transition to the community. As the majority of people will not be able to secure employment immediately after receiving international protection, almost all persons will need to apply for financial aid through the national Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) scheme.
Following a roundtable consultation between the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Labour, UNHCR and the Future Worlds Centre, under the auspices of the Ombudsman’s office in 2015, it was decided that applications for GMI by beneficiaries who are still residing in the Reception Centre would be prioritised. Although efforts have been made, in practice, several months elapse before people were able to move out of the Reception Centre. This is partly because the GMI scheme does not provide amounts for housing, unless a specific property has already been contracted. Moreover, it also due to the sharp increase of rent prices, the fact that rent deposits are not covered through the GMI scheme and the fact that most residents will not be able to secure a job on-time. In addition, the breakout of the pandemic and the measures imposed did not allow for transitions to take place.
In 2020, a procedure to accommodate the transition of persons receiving international protection from the Reception Centre into the community was proposed, which included the provision of financial aid/pocket money given directly to the persons; two-month’s rent allowance in advance; the provision of accommodation for one week in a hotel in case they are not able to find accommodation before leaving the Centre; and informing the Social Welfare Services of the persons moving into the community so as to monitor their integration. Although there were some advances in 2020 regarding the proposed transitional procedure, due to Covid-19, it has not been implemented to date.
There have been no cases of people being evicted out of the Reception Centre without any housing arrangement. However, there is always a number of persons with international protection residing in Kofinou Reception Centre, indicating that transitioning out of the centre remains one of the greatest challenges. At the end of 2020, out of the total number of residents, approximately 20 have international protection status.
There are no schemes in effect providing housing to beneficiaries of international protection. Persons will need to secure private accommodation on their own. This is often a difficult task, due to language barriers and financial constraints related to high levels of unemployment, high rent prices and the extent of assorted allowances. In 2020, securing private accommodation remains difficult for refugees who have recently been granted protection as well as refugees living in the community. The sharp rise in rents made it harder to identify appropriate accommodation as well as the reluctance on behalf of landlords to rent properties to refugees, including persons with a regular income. Although instances of homelessness are much more frequent among asylum seekers, beneficiaries of International Protection also face such risk and often assistance and guidance is required in order to secure shelter.