Article 26 Asylum Code provides for full and automatic access to the labour market for recognised refugees and subsidiary protection beneficiaries under the same conditions as nationals, without any obligation to obtain a work permit.
However, as mentioned in Reception Conditions: Access to the Labour Market, high unemployment rates and further obstacles that might be posed by competition with Greek-speaking employees, prevent the integration of beneficiaries into the labour market. Third-country nationals remain over-represented in the relevant unemployment statistical data. As found in research from 2018 ‘[t]hose few who manage to find a job are usually employed in the informal economy, which deprives them of access to social security, and subjects them to further precariousness and vulnerability. Henceforth, the vast majority of international protection beneficiaries and applicants rely on food, non-food item and financial assistance distributions to meet their basic needs. This often forces them into dangerous income generating activities, and extends the need for emergency services, increases the risk of exploitation, and hinders their integration prospects.’
Due to the abovementioned shortcomings, many beneficiaries of international protection work as irregular peddlers, since it is very difficult to obtain the special work permit required for this profession. Hence, they risk to be fined and jailed. In a case handled by GCR in October 2020 the First Instance Administrative court of Piraeus ruled that the fine of € 5,000 imposed on a recognised refugee who was working as a street vendor was exorbitant and it had to be adjusted to € 200 due to the amendment of the relative legislation.
The National Integration Strategy provides for several actions to improve access to employment for beneficiaries of international protection. These include a pilot vocational training program for 8,000 recognised refugees in Attica and Central Macedonia in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and an employment programme in the agricultural sector for 8,000 refugees in collaboration with the Ministry of Agricultural Development. However, these actions have yet to be implemented.
Similar to asylum seekers, beneficiaries of international protection face obstacles in the issuance of Tax Registration Number (AFM), which hinder their access to the labour market and registration with the Unemployment Office of OAED. According to GCR’s experience, issuance of an AFM is riddled by severe delays. The procedure for competent Tax Offices to verify refugees’ personal data through the Asylum Service takes approximately 2 months. In case of a professional (εταιρικό) AFM, the procedure takes more than 3.5 months and requires the assistance of an accountant. Moreover, individuals wishing to register with a Tax Office (Διεύθυνση Οικονομικών Υποθέσεων, (DOY) with a view to obtaining AFM are required to certify their residence address through a certificate from a reception centre, an electricity bill or a copy of a rental contract in their name. Accordingly, beneficiaries of international protection who do not hold a residence certificate and/or are homeless are unable to obtain AFM. As a result, they cannot submit a tax declaration or obtain a tax clearance certificate.
There is a lack of information on the employment of beneficiaries of international protection. A recent research found that only 14 out of 64 beneficiaries of international protection were working at the time of the research and only 23 out of 64 were able to work during the last six months.
Pending the issuance of a new residence permit, beneficiaries of international protection are granted a certificate of application (βεβαίωση κατάστασης αιτήματος) which is valid for three months. In practice this certificate is not allowing them to access the labour market and many of them are losing their jobs as soon as their residence permit expires. Furthermore, according to GCR experience, recently recognised beneficiaries of international protection, are considered by the electronic system ERGANI (ΕΡΓΑΝΗ) as asylum seekers pending the issuance of their first residence permit, since they still hold their asylum seekers card. This malpractice has prevented beneficiaries of international protection from accessing employment until they are served their residence permit. This is contrary to Article 27 of IPA as they should be able to access the labour market freely from the first day of their recognition.
 Decision on file with the author.
 Statement of the Secretary General for Migration Policy at the presentation of the National Integration Strategy, see Ministry for Migration Policy, Press release: Presentation of the “National Integration Strategy”, 17 January 2019.
 RSA and Pro Asyl, Idem, para. 15-16.
 Information gathered through a joint questionnaire prepared by GCR, Diotima Centre and IRC, under the joint project “Do the human right thing–Raising our Voice for Refugee Rights”. The project is implemented under the Active citizens fund program, which is supported through a € 12m grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway as part of the EEA Grants 2014 -2021, and is operated in Greece by the Bodossaki Foundation in consortium with SolidarityNow. As of the time of writing, the data is based on a total of 188 questionnaires, out of which 64 were filled by beneficiaries of international protection residing in Greece.