According to Article 30 PD 141/2013, beneficiaries of international protection should enjoy the same rights as Greek citizens and receive the necessary social assistance, according to the terms applicable to Greek citizens. However, administrative and bureaucratic barriers, lack of state-organised actions in order to address their particular situation, non-effective implementation of the law, and the impact of economic crisis prevent international protection holders from the enjoyment of their rights, which in some cases may also constitute a violation of the of principle of equal treatment enshrined in L 3304/2005, transposing Directives 2000/43/EU and 2000/78/EU. The same provision is included in the IPA.
17,355 people were granted international protection in 2019, up from 15,192 in 2018 and 10,351 in 2017. As noted by UNHCR, “[t]here is a pressing need to support refugees to lead a normal life, go to school, get healthcare and earn a living. This requires key documents that allow access to services and national schemes, enable refugees to work and help their eventual integration in the host communities […] UNHCR advocates for refugees to be included in practice in the national social solidarity schemes, as for example the Social Solidarity Income and the Rental Allowance Scheme. While eligible, many are excluded because they cannot fulfil the technical requirements, as for example owning a house, or having a lease in their name”. In any event, the impact of the financial crisis on the welfare system in Greece and the overall integration strategy should be also taken into consideration when assessing the ability of beneficiaries to live a dignified life in Greece.
Moreover, a number of measures restricting the access of recognized beneficiaries of international protection to social benefits and accommodation were announced in March 2020.
As stated by the Minister for Migration and Asylum, “our aim is to grant asylum to those entitled within 2-3 months and from then on we cut any benefits and accommodation, as all this works as a pull factor … Greece is cutting these benefits. Anyone after the recognition of the asylum status is responsible for himself”.
Indeed, an amendment to the asylum legislation in early March 2020 states that “after the issuance of the decision granting the status of international protection, material reception conditions in form of cash or in kind are interrupted. Said beneficiaries residing in accommodation facilities, including hotels and apartments have the obligation to leave them, in a 30-days period since the communication of the decision granting international protection”. Unaccompanied minors have the legal obligation to leave the facilities within 30 days of reaching the age of majority. Special categories of beneficiaries for whom the provision of benefits or deadline to leave the facility is extended, and “in particular persons with a serious health condition”, may be foreseen by a ministerial Decision.
With a Ministerial Decision, issued on 7 April 2020, recognized refuges have been granted a deadline up until 31 May 2020, in order to leave the accommodation facilities due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
In general terms and according to the law beneficiaries of international protection have access to accommodation under the conditions and limitations applicable to third-country nationals residing legally in the country.
There is limited accommodation for homeless people in Greece and no shelters are dedicated to recognised refugees or beneficiaries of subsidiary protection. There is no provision for financial support for living costs. In Athens, for example, there are only four shelters for homeless people, including Greek citizens and third-country nationals lawfully on the territory. At these shelters, beneficiaries of international protection can apply for accommodation, but it is extremely difficult to be admitted given that these shelters are always overcrowded and constantly receiving new applications for housing.
According to GCR’s experience, those in need of shelter who lack the financial resources to rent a house remain homeless or reside in abandoned houses or overcrowded apartments, which are on many occasions subletted. Pro Asyl and Refugee Support Aegean also document cases of beneficiaries of international protection living under deplorable conditions, including persons returned from other EU countries. For example, in a report issued in January 2019, Pro Asyl and RSA, have documented the living conditions faced by a vulnerable four-member family of refugees returned from Switzerland at the end of August 2018. Upon their return to Greece, the family ended up homeless, was denied crucial benefits and the parents could not find employment. According to the findings of the organisations, “refugees still have no secure and effective access to shelter, food, the labour market and healthcare including mental health care. International protection status in Greece cannot guarantee a dignified life for beneficiaries of protection and is no more than protection ‘on paper’”.
In 2017 the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that the potential return of an unaccompanied Syrian child granted international protection in Greece would be contrary to the ICCPR, inter alia due to the “conditions of reception of migrant minors in Greece”. In 2018, in a number of cases domestic courts, taking into account the findings of the Committee, have prevented the return of recognised beneficiaries of international protection to Greece from other Member States.
On 15 July 2019, the Dutch Council of State held that two recognised refugees should not be returned to Greece without proper justification by the Dutch State. The case concerned a single mother and her daughter who was having severe psychological problems. The Court ruled that the extreme vulnerability of the daughter and the extent to which she depends on her mother will make it more difficult for both of them to effectuate their rights in Greece. The Secretary of State has to reassess the case and explain why the two refugees will not find themselves in a situation of extreme material poverty, because of their particular vulnerability if they were transferred to Greece.
During the previous years and in 2019 a number of efforts have been made in order to provide a transitional period to recognized refugees, who already where accommodated under an accommodation scheme. However, these welcome efforts refer to a relatively small number of beneficiaries and are provided only for a short period. In any event, and as mentioned above according to a March 2020 amendment of the national legislation beneficiaries of international protection are ordered to leave for accommodation facilities, including the ESTIA apartments, open reception facilities etc., within 30 days since the communication of the decision granting the status, while all benefits in cash or in kind are interrupted from the issuance of the decision on the international protection application. This is for example the case for the beneficiaries under UNHCR accommodation and cash assistance scheme (ESTIA). According to the statistics, at the end of 2019, 6,822 beneficiaries of international protection were provided accommodation in apartments through the UNHCR scheme and 15,500 received cash assistance. These persons are directly affected by the March 2020 amendment.
Apart for the transitional period, in July 2019, as part of the National Integration Strategy, a programme was launched (“HELIOS 2”). This aimed at promoting the integration of beneficiaries of international protection currently residing in temporary accommodation schemes into the Greek society through different actions, such as integration courses, accommodation and employability support. The project is implemented by IOM and its partners, with the support of the Greek government and will last up until November 2020. In order to enrol in the project, beneficiaries must meet all the following criteria: a) be a beneficiary of international protection b) have been recognised as beneficiary of international protection after 01 January 2018 and c) be officially registered and reside in an Open Accommodation Centre, Reception and Identification Centre, a hotel of the IOM FILOXENIA project or in the ESTIA program.
As far as the accommodation is concerned, the project aims to support 5,000 beneficiaries towards independent accommodation in apartments rented on their name, through contributions for rent for a period of 6 months and move-in costs, as wells as networking with apartment owners. From the launch of the programme to 3 January 2020, 5,846 beneficiaries are enrolled in HELIOS and received support for independent living, while 568 beneficiaries received rental subsidies upon finding independent housing.
Information provided by the Asylum Service, 17 February 2020; Asylum Service, Statistical data, December 2018.
UNHCR, Greece Fact Sheet, 1-31 January 2019.
 Article 114 L. 4636/2019, as amended by Article 111 L. 4674/2020. Said ministerial Decision, has been issued on 7 April 2020 (JMD No 13348, Gov. Gazzetta B’ 1190/7-4-2020).
 JMD No 13348, Gov. Gazzetta B’ 1190/7-4-2020.
 Article 33 PD 141/2013 and L. 4636/2019.
 Pro Asyl and Refugee Support Aegean, Rights and effective protection exist only on paper: The precarious existence of beneficiaries of international protection in Greece, 30 June 2017, 14-16; Update: Legal Note on the living conditions of beneficiaries of international protection in Greece, 30 August 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2GNulQp; Returned recognized refugees face a dead-end in Greece, 9 January 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/3aH0KmA.
 Pro Asyl and Refugee Support Aegean, Returned recognized refugees face a dead-end in Greece, ibid.
 Human Rights Committee, O.Y.K.A. v. Denmark, Communication No 2770/2016, 30 November 2017.
 See e.g. German Administrative Court of Bremen, Decision 5 V 837/18, 12 July 2018. Contrast German Administrative Court of Ansbach, Decision AN 14 K 18.50495, 20 September 2018; AN 14 S 18.50697, 26 September 2018; Dutch Regional Court of Gravenhage, Decision NL18.8338, 18 June 2018; Dutch Regional Court of Amsterdam, Decision NL18.13530, 15 August 2018; Dutch Regional Court of Arnhem, Decision NL17.12258, 29 November 2018.
 Dutch Council of State, ECLI:NL:RVS:2019:2385, 17 July 2019.
 Article 114 L. 4636/2019, as amended by Article 111 L. 4674/2020.
UNHCR, Greece Accommodation Update, December 2019.
 UNHCR, Greece Cash Assistance Update, December 2019.
 HELIOS FACTSHEET, 16 July 2019 – 03 January 2020