There are no active schemes 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 2021, securing private accommodation remained difficult for refugees who have recently been granted protection, as well as refugees living in the community. This is due to the extremely high rent prices that continued to increase throughout the year, making it harder to identify appropriate accommodation, as well as the reluctance on the landlords’ side to rent properties to refugees, even when they have 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.
Beneficiaries of international protection have a right to apply for financial aid through the national Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) scheme, which may include a rent allowance. However in order to apply for the rent allowance a specific property must already have been contracted and in addition rent deposits are not covered through the GMI scheme. Furthermore throughout 2021 the period required to examine GMI applications including the rental allowance reached 12 months. Even in cases of vulnerable persons or homeless persons rarely will an exception be made and the application examined faster. During the examination period an emergency allowance is provided which varies from district to district and it is extremely low at about €100-150 for one person per month and approximately €150-280 for a family per month. The amount cannot be determined in advance and depends on the amount that is provided to the Welfare Office every month by the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance. Furthermore, the examination of the emergency application takes approximately one to two weeks and is subject to the approval of the supervisor of the welfare office. The application is valid only for one month and must be submitted every month, until the decision for the GMI is issued. The delays in examination of GMI applications have a serious negative impact on living standards and integration efforts and in some instances lead to homelessness.
Regarding beneficiaries residing in the Reception Center, there is no set time frame in which they must leave the Center once they have received international protection, 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. Efforts have been made to prioritise GMI applications for beneficiaries who are still residing in the Reception Centre would be prioritized. In practice, however, several months elapse before people are 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 identified and 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 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. Efforts to resume the procedure were made in 2021, but progress was limited due to obstacles related to identifying accommodation in the community, delays with issuance of residence permit, as well as GMI application and opening bank accounts.
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 had international protection status, whereas in 2021 the number was closer to 30.