Access to NGOs and UNHCR


Country Report: Access to NGOs and UNHCR Last updated: 08/06/23


Greek Council for Refugees Visit Website

Access of NGOs to Reception and Identification Centres, camps on the mainland and pre-removal detention facilities is subject to prior permission by the competent authorities. Article 78 of the Asylum Code (Greek Law 4939/2022 ratifying the Code on reception, international protection of third-country nationals and stateless persons, and temporary protection in cases of mass influx of displaced persons) provides for the obligation of all Greek and International Organisations of Civil Society active in the field of refugee support and protection as well as their members to register in the established Registry of Greek and Foreign Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the Special Secretariat for the Coordination of Involved Agencies of the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum.

NGOs that meet the minimum necessary conditions for participation as provided in the Asylum Code are registered by the competent service. Non-profit organisations, voluntary organisations and any corresponding organisation, Greek or international, that is not registered in the registry, may not participate in the implementation of international protection, immigration and social integration actions within the Greek territory, and in particular in the provision of legal, psychosocial and medical services

The Law also provides of an additional registry of Members of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) active in matters of international protection, immigration and social integration, in which the members, employees and partners of the above organisations active in Greece are registered and registered. The registration of these persons in the Registry and their certification is a necessary condition both for their activity within the Greek territory and for their cooperation with public bodies.

In practise employees of NGOs and members that their name is not provided for in the registry are banned from entering places of detention and reception facilities under the Ministry’s responsibility. GCR is aware of several instances when access was refused to interpreters and on occasion lawyers or were obliged to wait for several hours before they were granted permission to enter.

Concerning the lawfulness of the registration in ECRE’s Expert Opinion upon request from the ELENA Coordinator in Greece published in December 2021[1] mentions that the registry has been heavily criticised by civil society organisations[2], the Council of Europe[3] and in the context of the UN Special Procedures [4]and it has also been the subject of a question at the European Parliament[5]. The criticism focuses on the lack of meaningful public consultation before the adoption of the framework, the excessive requirements for registration/certification, the designation of the latter as a precondition for NGO activities, the introduction of seemingly unlimited discretion to deny registration or remove NGOs from the registry on the basis of vague criteria, and the absence of effective remedies. According to the reports, such a framework can interfere with the freedom of association by establishing a situation of legal uncertainty and restricted guarantees that could create significant obstacles in the free development of NGO activities in Greece. As of October 2021, at least three refugee-assisting organisations have been denied registration. The refusal for two of these was based on formalities, i.e., the absence of required documentation without them being first requested, and/or lack of operational efficiency. A third organisation was refused as a result of lack of updated documentation, non-compliance with the criterion of effectiveness, and due to the fact that the organisation’s statute referred to provision of ‘support to individuals under deportation’, which was deemed to be an unlawful activity. The Greek Ombudsman has since called for the re-examination of the rejection decision as it found that it resulted in violation of national, EU and international law” .[6]

UNHCR is present in Athens, Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos, Thessaloniki, covering through physical presence, field missions and ad hoc visits all sites in their area of responsibility.[7] UNHCR’s teams continue to assist new arrivals by helping them gain access to necessary services, and by providing them with information on procedures, rights and obligations.

Asylum seekers can access UNHCR as well as other organisations through a variety of means. UNHCR has established the UNHCR HELP Website providing information on how to apply for asylum, cash assistance, family reunification, access to employment as well as a UNHCR WhatsApp automatic information system[8] . Helplines are also provided depending of the refugees whereabouts providing information and assistance[9]. After the Covid pandemic several helplines and helpdesks were established by the majority of actors allowing asylum seekers and recognised refugees to access information and services remotely. During 2022 more lines and helpdesks were made available by NGOs.[10]




[1] ECRE Concerning the lawfulness of Greek legislation regulating the registration of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on the Registry of NGOs working with refugees and migrants in Greece, December 2021, available at:

[2] Amnesty international, Greece: Regulation of NGOs working on migration and asylum threatens civ space, 31 July 2020, available at:; RSA, Risk of Repression: New Rules on Civil Society Supporting Refugees and Migrants in Greece, available at:, 3; RSA, Repression Continued: Greece Further Restricts Civil Society Supporting Refugees and Migrants, September 2020, available at:; HIAS Greece, Some thoughts on the new Joint Ministerial Decision, regulating the registration of migration-related NGOs in Greece, 8 May 2020, available at:

[3] Letter of Commissioner for Human Rights, 3 May 2021, available at:; Council of Europe, Expert Council on NGO Law of the Conference of INGOs, Opinion on the compatibility with European standards of recent and planned amendments to the Greek legislation on NGO registration, 6 July 2020, available at: and Addendum to that opinion, 23 November 2020, available at:

[4] OHCHR, Letter to Greece by the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, 31 March 2021.

[5]  European Parliament, ‘Follow-up to the letter from the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs regarding Greece’s NGO registration law (JMD 10616/2020)’, 16 October 2020, available at:

[6] RSA, ‘Ombudsman calls for re-examination of rejection of RSA’s registration on the NGO Registry’, 13 December 2021, available at:

[7]  UNHCR, ‘About UNHCR in Greece’, available at:

[8] UNHCR, ‘Information on the road with you’, available at:

[9]  See

[10] i.e Psychosocial Support (PSS) Helpline:; City of Athens, ‘Targeted support and assistance to asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection with disabilities’, available at:, and Caritas ADAMA center, see:; Hellenic Red Cross ( HRC) Information Hotline, see:; GCR Helpline, see:; Danish Refugee Council (DRC), Greece Help Line:

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation