Access to education


Country Report: Access to education Last updated: 30/05/22


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According to Article 51 IPA, asylum-seeking children are required to attend primary and secondary school under the public education system under similar conditions as Greek nationals. Contrary to the previous provision,[1] the IPA does not mention education as a right but as an obligation. Facilitation is provided in case of incomplete documentation, as long as no removal measure against minors or their parents is actually enforced. Access to secondary education shall not be withheld for the sole reason that the child has reached the age of maturity.  Registration is to take place no longer than 3 months from the identification of the child, while non-compliance on behalf of the applicants, on account of a potential “unwillingness to be included in the education system” is subject to the reduction of material reception conditions and to the imposition of the administrative sanctions foreseen for Greek citizens to the adult members of the minor’s family.[2]

A Ministerial Decision issued in September 2016, which was repealed in October 2016 by a Joint Ministerial Decision, established a programme of afternoon preparatory classes (Δομές Υποδοχής και Εκπαίδευσης Προσφύγων, DYEP) for all school-aged children aged 4 to 15.[3] The programme is implemented in public schools neighbouring camps or places of residence, with the location and operationalisation of the afternoon preparatory classes being subject to the yearly issuance of a Joint Ministerial Decision (exceptionally a Decision by the Minister of Education and as of 2019 a Decision by the Deputy Minister of Education). Such decisions have been respectively issued for each school year in January and November 2017, August 2018, October 2019, August 2020, and September 2021 for school years 2016-2017, up to 2021-2022.

Children aged between 6-15 years, living in dispersed urban settings (such as ESTIA accommodation, squats, apartments, hotels, and reception centres for asylum seekers and unaccompanied children), may go to schools near their place of residence, to enrol in the morning classes alongside Greek children, at schools that will be identified by the Ministry. This is done with the aim of ensuring a balanced distribution of children across selected schools, as well as across preparatory classes for migrant and refugee children where Greek is taught as a second language.[4]

Although the refugee education programme implemented by the Ministry of Education is highly welcome, the school attendance rate should be reinforced, while special action should be taken in order for children remaining on the islands to be guaranteed access to education.

In October 2019, the estimated number of refugee and migrant children in Greece was 37,000, among whom 4,686 were unaccompanied. Out of the number of children present in Greece, it was estimated that only a third (12,800) of refugee and migrant children of school age (4-17 years old) were enrolled in formal education during the school year 2018-2019.  The rate of school attendance was higher for those children living in apartments and for unaccompanied children benefitting from reception conditions (67%).[5]

For the school year of 2020-2021, conflicting data provided by the Ministry of Education, seem either to highlight a 32.52% decrease in the number of children enrolled to education compared to the aforementioned 2019 estimates, or a 12.67% increase in the number of children enrolled to education compared to the same estimates. Namely, as per the response of the Deputy Minister of Education to a Parliamentary question in March 2021,[6] there were 8,637 children enrolled to education, while as per an April 2021 reply of the Ministry to relevant findings of the Greek Ombudsman (see further bellow), there were 14,423 children enrolled to education by 21 February 2021[7]. In both cases, reference is made to the same “My school” database, albeit in the latter case, it is specified that due to reasons inter alia stemming from the mobility of the specific population (e.g. due to change of status or a transfer decision), relevant “accurate quantitative data are not guaranteed”[8].

In either case, the number of children enrolled to education for the school year 2020-2021 remained well below the number of 20,000 school-aged (aged 4-17) children provided in the Ministry’s April 2021 reply[9]. Moreover, because of the lack of available, broken-down data, it remains uncertain whether this number includes all refugee and asylum-seeking children present in Greece at the time of the reply, or if it only regards beneficiaries of international protection, as the reply’s wording (“refugees”) seems to imply. Either way, by the end of 2020, a total of 44,000 refugee and migrant children were estimated to be in Greece[10], which could indicate an even wider gap between the number of refugee and migrant children present in Greece and the number of those enrolled to education.

Furthermore, in 2020, children’s’ access to education was further challenged by a number of factors, also related to the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to record levels of exclusion of refugee children from the Greek system of education.[11] As noted by 33 civil society organisations in March 2021, with respect to children accommodated in mainland camps, “[i]n some places the issues observed have to do with inconsistent interpretation of COVID-19 related movement restriction policies by the Greek authorities, which ends up discriminating against children who, as a result, are not being allowed to leave these camps [in order to attend school]. At the same time, during the lockdowns, due to the lack of necessary technical infrastructure for online learning at the camps, refugee and asylum-seeking children are further excluded from the education process”.[12] The lack of transportation, understaffing of reception classes and negativity and/or reported reluctance by some local communities, as well as refugee families, to the potential of children attending school, were also amongst reported factors hindering refugee children’s access to education for the school year of 2020-2021.[13] Particularly in what concerns mainland camps, even though slightly more than 62% of school-aged children living in the camps were formally enrolled to education (6,472 out of 10,431 children), only 14.2% (or 1,483) were actually able to attend it, as per findings of the Greek Ombudsman in March 2021.[14]

As noted by the Ombudsman in March 2021, “[t]he number of children [living in] facilities of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum and [in] RICs that are enrolled to school is dramatically far apart from their actual attendance”[15].

On the Eastern Aegean islands, where children have to remain for prolonged periods under a geographical restriction together with their parents or until an accommodation place is found in the case of unaccompanied children, the vast majority remained without access to formal education in 2020 as well. Indicatively, out of a total of 2,090 school-aged children living in the RICs by January 2021, only 178 (8.5%) were enrolled in school, out of whom only 7 (0.3%) had actually been able to attend it, primarily due to being accommodated in the urban fabric, as opposed to the RIC, as pointed out in the findings of the Greek Ombudsman in March 2021.[16]

The school year 2021-2022 was marked by improvements, with 95% of all refugee children being enrolled to school, as per data issued by the Ministry of Education. As highlighted by UNICEF in April 2022, 16,417 children with a refugee and migrant background were included in the country’s system of education in the school year 2021-2022, marking a 35% increase compared to the previous year. Of these, however, only 75% (12,285) were actually attending school in March 2022,[17] highlighting a concerning degree of drop outs, which was exacerbated due to the difficult living conditions of refugee children and the gap that was created after the transition of the ESTIA cash-based assistance programme to the state. As noted in a joint GCR-Save the Children briefing in March 2022, “[m]any children, especially those in secondary school, drop out of school to find work (mostly in agriculture) and support their families, or they had to take care of their younger siblings for the parents to be able to find work. In addition, rejections of asylum applications are creating despair and a lack of hope for a better future, leading to families deprioritizing schooling”.[18]

Other challenges were also observed in the school year 2021-2022. For instance, two weeks after the start of the school year, children in 16 sites did not attend school, while additional issues hindering children’s access to education continued to be reported:[19]

  • In Epirus, there were still issues of transportation as the camps (Agia Eleni, Filippiada) are far away from the schools and Refugee Education Coordinators (RECs) had not yet been appointed by 4 October 2021. Lack of transportation was also reported in the first months of 2022 for children residing in the areas of Drama, Lesvos and Kavala.
  • In Central Macedonia, low enrolment rates were recorded in Nea Kavala and nearby area of Kilkis, Axioupoli, Polikastro. Five Parents’ association from the area published a letter, articulating concerns about the inclusion of refugee students in regular schools. In addition, as of 27 September 2021, no transportation for primary school had been arranged and DYEP teachers had not been appointed. In Veroia, the camp manager did not allow children to exit the camp to go to school due to a COVID-19 cases rise although schools were open and local students attended school, an issue finally resolved on 27 September 2021. In Kleidi camp a REC had not yet been placed on 27 September 2021.
  • In Attica, especially in Inofita, Andravida, Malakasa and Nea Malakasa, there was a lack of teachers in schools and half of the primary school children did not have access to transportation to schools. A lack of places in secondary education as well as school vaccinations delays were also reported.
  • On the islands, especially in Samos, children from the camp enrolled in ZEP classes but were not attending them by October 2021. As of 4 October, there was also no free transportation provided to children between the new camp and the town of Vathy. In Lesvos, as of 7 October, an “education area” was still not available. In Kos and Leros refugee students are waiting for teachers and in Leros a REC was appointed only on 16 October 2021.




[1] Article 13 L 4540/2018.

[2] Article 51(2) IPA.

[3] Joint Ministerial Decision 180647/ΓΔ4/2016, GG 3502/2016/Β/31-10-2016, available in Greek at:

[4] Ministry of Education, Q&A for access to education for refugee children, 1 February 2017, available at:

[5] UNICEF, Refugee and migrant children in Greece as of 31 October 2019, available at:

[6] RSA, Excluded and segregated: the vanishing education of refugee children in Greece, ​13 April 2021, available at:

[7] Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, “Reply with respect to the findings regarding the educational integration of children residing in facilities and RICs of the Ministry of Migration & Asylum”, 21 April 2021, available in Greek at:, 3.

[8] Ibid, 2

[9] Ibid, 2.

[10] UNICEF, Refugee and Migrant Response in Europe: Humanitarian Situation Report No. 38, 28 January 2021, available at:, 3.

[11] For more, RSA, Excluded and segregated, op.cit.

[12] Open letter: “All children have the right to go to school. Do not take that away from them”, 9 March 2021, available at:

[13] For more Greek Ombudsman, Educational integration of children living in facilities and RICs of the Ministry of Migration & Asylum, 11 March 2021, available in Greek at:

[14] Greek Ombudsman, Educational integration of children living in facilities and RICs of the Ministry of Migration & Asylum, 11 March 2021, available in Greek at:, 12.

[15] Greek Ombudsman, Educational integration of children living in facilities and RICs of the Ministry of Migration & Asylum, 11 March 2021, available in Greek at:, 12.

[16] Greek Ombudsman, Educational integration of children living in facilities and RICs of the Ministry of Migration & Asylum, 11 March 2021, available in Greek at:, 9.

[17] Kathimerini, “Schools: More refugee students this year”, 5 April 2022, available (Greek):

[18]  GCR & Save the Children, Greece: Children on the move (January-March 2022 update), 31 March 2022, available at:, 10.

[19] GCR & SCI, Greece: Children on the move (September – October 2021 update), available at:

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