Types of accommodation

Greece

Country Report: Types of accommodation Last updated: 30/11/20

Author

Greek Council for Refugees Visit Website

The Greek reception system has been long criticised as inadequate, not least in the M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece ruling of the ECtHR. Subsequent jurisprudence of the ECtHR has also found violations of Article 3 ECHR due to the failure of national authorities to provide asylum seekers with adequate living conditions.[1]

Since mid-2015, when Greece was facing large-scale arrivals of refugees, those shortcomings have become increasingly apparent. The imposition of border restrictions and the subsequent closure of the Western Balkan route in March 2016, resulting in trapping a number of about 50,000 third-country nationals in Greece. This created inter alia an unprecedented burden on the Greek reception system.[2]

Since then, the number of reception places has increased mainly through temporary camps and the UNHCR accommodation scheme. Despite this increase, destitution and homelessness remain a risk, which has been affecting an increasing number of asylum seekers and refugees.

As mentioned by UNHCR in January 2019, “with steady new arrivals reaching the sea and land borders and limited legal pathways out of the country, there is an ever-increasing need for more reception places for asylum-seekers and refugees, especially children who are unaccompanied and other people with specific needs.”[3]

Since then, throughout 2019, more than 70,000 persons arrived on the Greek islands and the mainland, amounting to a 50% increase, compared to 2018 arrivals,[4] thus further impacting on the state’s ability to provide material reception conditions. The situation on the islands remains dire due to the critical overcrowding of the RICs, which in tandem with the lack of necessary provisions and frequently changing practices, facilitate the creation of frequent tensions.

The Reception and Identification Service (RIS) and the Directorate for the Protection of Asylum Seekers (DPAS) within the Secretariat General of Migration Policy, Reception and Asylum under the Ministry of Citizen Protection, where relevant, are appointed as the responsible authorities for the reception of  asylum seekers.[5] Additionally, the UNHCR accommodation scheme as part of the “ESTIA” programme receives and processes relevant referrals for vulnerable asylum seekers eligible to be hosted under the scheme in 2019.

The Directorate General for Social Solidarity of the Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs is appointed as the responsible authority for the protection, including provision of reception conditions, of unaccompanied and separated children.[6] EKKA, under the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, receives and processes referrals for the accommodation of unaccompanied and separated children (see Special Reception Needs).

 

Temporary accommodation centres

 

As mentioned above, in 2016, in order to address the needs of persons remaining in Greece after the imposition of border restrictions along the so-called Western Balkan route, a number of temporary camps has been created in the mainland in order to increase accommodation capacity.

The law provides a legal basis for the establishment of different accommodation facilities. In addition to Reception and Identification Centres,[7] the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Internal Affairs may, by joint decision, establish open Temporary Reception Facilities for Asylum Seekers (Δομές Προσωρινής Υποδοχής Αιτούντων Διεθνή Προστασία),[8] as well as open Temporary Accommodation Facilities (Δομές Προσωρινής Φιλοξενίας) for persons subject to return procedures or whose return has been suspended.[9] As of 17 December 2019, the sites for the construction of controlled, open and closed facilities, as well as all facilities, including those intended for the accommodation of unaccompanied minors, throughout the Greek territory, is approved by the newly constituted position of the National Coordinator for the response to and management of the migration-refugee issue (Εθνικός Συντονιστής για την αντιμετώπιση και διαχείριση του μεταναστευτικού – προσφυγικού ζητήματος), following recommendations of the competent services.[10]

Notwithstanding these provisions, in 2019 most temporary accommodation centres (i.e. mainland camps) and emergency facilities continue to operate without a prior Ministerial Decision and the requisite legal basis. The only three facilities officially established on the mainland are Elaionas,[11] Schisto and Diavata,[12] with the rest operating without an official manager, through Site Management & Support. The required Ministerial Decisions for the establishment of the Temporary accommodation facilities has been issued on March 2020.[13] Said Decision establishes 28 Temporary Accommodation Facilities across the country.

The referral pathway for placement in these camps entails the engagement of multiple actors, amongst which the RIS, the DPAS, SMS agencies and UNHCR. For instance, applicants identified as homeless and/or living in precarious conditions on the mainland are initially referred to DPAS which, following the assessment of their vulnerability, proceeds with further referring them to UNHCR, for placement in the ESTIA accommodation scheme (high vulnerability), or to the RIS (low vulnerability), which is to then further examine the possibility of their accommodation in a camp.[14]

During 2019, 950 requests from homeless or under precarious living conditions asylum seekers on the mainland were sent from the Directorate for the Protection of Asylum Seekers (DPAS) to the Reception and Identification Service (RIS), for a place in an open accommodation facility on the mainland. Only 55 applicants were finally offered an accommodation place in a facility (5.7%).[15]  

Though, there are still no official data available on the capacity and occupancy of these accommodation sites, starting July 2019, data on the totality of mainland camps have started being issued on a monthly basis by IOM:[16]

 

Occupancy of temporary accommodation centres: December 2019

Facility

Population

Occupancy

Nationality (%)

Age / Gender

 

 

 

Syria

Afg.

Iraq

Other

Men

Women

Children

Alexandreia

628

102.28%

36.57

28.34

26.36

8.73

31%

20%

49%

Andravida

316

101,28%

96.52

1.90

1.58

24%

22%

54%

Diavata

980

105.60%

14.18

44.69

24.08

17.04

35%

22%

43%

Doliana

133

103.10%

68.28

31.72

20%

23%

57%

Drama

365

86.90%

44.9

43.3

11.7

25%

19%

56%

Elefsina

189

105%

58.76%

8.25

22.68

10.31

18%

21%

61%

Elaionas

1,839

99.41%

32.79

37.90

7.12

22.17

34%

25%

41%

Filipiada

650

88.32%

28.26

42.08

14.60

12.73

25%

22%

53%

Grevena (SMS Hotels)

765

103.10%

57.25

9.41

20.65

12.68

30%

25%

45%

Kato Milia

310

91.18%

51.29

15.81

13.87

19,03

37%

22%

41%

Katsikas

1,064

92.36%

24.55

34.24

15.71

25.48

45%

19%

36%

Kavala

906

73.24%

12.91

62.36

13.47

11.26

24%

21%

55%

Korinthos

751

95.79%

29.05

37.84

6.62

26.49

45%

25%

30%

Koutsochero (Larisa)

1,456

86.77%

36.40

31.94

15.38

16.27

37%

24%

39%

Lagadikia

466

102.19%

34.76

4.51

52.79

7.94

36%

22%

42%

Lavrio

240

89.22%

47.50

23.75

3.75

24.99

39%

22%

39%

Malakasa

1,767

111.20%

94

1.4

4.6

41%

21%

38%

Nea Kavala

794

86.97%

16.62

48.61

9.19

25.57

45%

19%

36%

Oinofyta

604

97.26%

75.83

19.70

3.81

0.66

38%

24%

38%

Pirgos SMS facilities

78

97.50%

24.36

62.82

7.69

5.12

49%

51%

Ritsona

1,579

59.05%

56.36

16.92

7.12

19.6

35%

24%

41%

Schisto

954

86.73%

27.49

57.94

7.64

6.92

38%

21%

41%

Serres

1,107

65.93%

4.9

95.1

31%

27%

42%

Skaramagas

2,534

79.29%

48.82%

26.84%

11.92%

12.43%

38%

23%

39%

Thermopiles

428

76.43%

61.68%

23.83

14.49

27%

22%

51%

Thiva

824

85.74%

29.25

45.15

15.90

9.71

48%

17%

35%

Vagiochori

771

97.35%

10.25

81.84

1.95

5.96

23%

28%

49%

Veria

454

92.84%

63.44

25.53

9.02

27%

26%

47%

Volos

143

95.33%

27.97

20.98

51.05

37%

18%

45%

Volvi

1,015

101.50%

29.49

29.74

15.61

25.19

32%

31%

37%

Grand total

24,110

 

33.75

35.85

17.23

13.17

35%

23%

42%

Source: IOM, Improving the Greek Reception System through Site Management Support and Targeted Interventions in Long-Term Accommodation Sites: Factsheet December 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/37k71Dg

 

UNHCR accommodation scheme

 

UNHCR started implementing an accommodation scheme dedicated to relocation candidates (“Accommodation for Relocation”) through its own funds in November 2015.[17] Following a Delegation Agreement signed between the European Commission and UNHCR in December 2015,[18] the project was continued and UNHCR committed to gradually establishing 20,000 places in open accommodation, funded by the European Commission and primarily dedicated to applicants for international protection eligible for relocation.

In July 2017, as announced by the European Commission, the accommodation scheme was included in the Emergency Support to Integration and Accommodation (ESTIA) programme funded by DG ECHO, aiming to provide urban accommodation and cash assistance, aiming at hosting up to 30,000 people by the end of 2017. As stated by the UNHCR Representative in Greece in February 2018, the European Commission has provided assurances that funding for the accommodation programme of asylum seekers in apartments will also continue in 2019, probably by DG HOME.[19] The takeover of activities by AMIF, managed by DG HOME, was confirmed in February 2019.[20]

By the end of December 2019, 25,766 places were provided in the accommodation scheme as part of the ESTIA programme, amounting to a decrease of 1,322 places when compared to the same period during 2018 (total of 27,088 places).[21] These were in 4,523 apartments and 14 buildings, in 14 cities and 7 islands across Greece:

 

UNHCR accommodation scheme: 31 December 2019

Type of accommodation

Capacity

Total number of places in Greece

25,766

Actual capacity

22,060

Current population

21,620

Occupancy rate

98%

Source: UNHCR, ESTIA Accommodation Capacity Weekly Update (as of 31 December 2019), 3 January 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/2FoLop2.

 

Out of the total of 25,766 places, 1,765 were located on the islands.

In total, since November 2015, 63,940 individuals have benefitted from the accommodation scheme. By the end of December 2019, 21,620 people were accommodated under the scheme, 6,822 of whom were recognised refugees and 14,798 were asylum seekers.

Nearly 51% of the residents are children. The clear majority of those accommodated continued being families with children, with an average family size of four people. More than one in four residents have at least one of the vulnerabilities that make them eligible for the accommodation scheme. Moreover, close to 88% of individuals in the accommodation scheme are Syrians (40%), Iraqis (21%), Afghans (20%), Iranians (3%) and from DRC (2%).[22]

 

The islands and accommodation in the hotspots

 

Immediately after the launch of the EU-Turkey Statement on 20 March 2016, Reception and Identification Centres (RIC) –the so-called “hotspot” facilities– were transformed into closed detention facilities due to a practice of blanket detention of all newly arrived persons. [23] Following criticism by national and international organisations and actors, as well as due to the limited capacity to maintain and run closed facilities on the islands with a large population, [24] this practice has largely been abandoned. As a result, RIC on the islands are used mainly as open reception centres.

Following a controversial press briefing of the Government’s operational plan for responding to the refugee issue, on 20 November 2019,[25] it was announced that the island RICs would be transformed into Closed Reception and Identification Centres that would simultaneously function as Pre-Removal Detention Centres and which would have a capacity of at least 18,000 places. The announcements inter alia raised serious concerns and/or were condemned by a wide array of actors, including members of the European Parliament, which addressed an open letter to the Justice and Home Affairs Council, the CoE Commissioner for Human Rights,[26] as well as GCR and other civil society actors,[27] and local communities in Greece, who have since opposed the creation of new centres on the islands.[28]

Notwithstanding this, it should be mentioned that throughout 2019 people residing in the RICs continued being subjected to a “geographical restriction”, based on which they are under an obligation not to leave the island and to reside in the RIC facility (see Freedom of Movement). Beyond the hotspots, each island has an additional, though limited, number of facilities, inter alia operating under the UNHCR accommodation scheme or NGOs for the temporary accommodation of vulnerable groups, including unaccompanied children.

As of 31 December 2019, 41,899 persons remained on the Eastern Aegean islands, of which 305 were in detention in police cells and Pre-Removal Detention Centres (PRDCs). The nominal capacity of reception facilities, including RIC and other facilities, was at 8,125 places. The nominal capacity of the RIC facilities (hotspots) was of 6,178 while 38,423 persons were residing there.

More precisely, the figures reported by the National Coordination Centre for Border Control, Immigration and Asylum, as issued by the General Secretariat for Information and Communication, were as follows:

 

Accommodation on the Eastern Aegean islands: 31 December 2019

Island

RIC

UNHCR scheme

EKKA

Other facilities

 

Nominal capacity

Occupancy

Nominal capacity

Occupancy

Nominal capacity

Occupancy

Nominal capacity

Occupancy

Lesvos

2,840

18,615 (655%)

765

658

146

140

1,218

Chios

1,014

5,782 (570%)

288

278

18

12

Samos

648

7,765 (1,200%)

282

275

18

15

Leros

860

2,496 (290%)

136

113

120

142

Kos

816

3,765 (461%)

213

189

Others

 

 

81

56

 

 

 

 

Total

6,178

38,423

1,765

1,569

182

167

120

1,360

 

Source: http://bit.ly/2GDox7X; General Secretariat for Information and Communication, National Situational Picture Regarding the Islands at Eastern Aegean Sea (31/12/2019), 1 January 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/37LOj7A. The term “other facilities” refers to Kara Tepe on Lesvos (capacity not mentioned) and PIKPA on Leros.

 


[1] ECtHR, F.H. v. Greece, Application No 78456/11, Judgment of 31 July 2014; Al.K. v. Greece, Application

No 63542/11, Judgment of 11 March 2015; Amadou v. Greece, Application No 37991/11, Judgment of 4 February 2016; S.G. v. Greece, Application No 46558/12, Judgment of 18 May 2017.

[2] See also AIRE Centre and ECRE, With Greece: Recommendations for refugee protection, July 2016, 7-8.

[3] UNHCR, Factsheet: Greece, January 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2SYh3qr.

[4] UNHCR, Factsheet: Greece, December 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/37QBhFY.

[5] Article 41(h) IPA. As of 15 January 2020 and the institution of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum, through P.D. 4/2020, Gov. Gazette 4/A/15.1.20, the Secretariat General of Migration Policy, Reception and Asylum, as well as the Special Secretariat of Reception have been transferred under the competence of the new Ministry.

[6] Article 60(3) IPA.

[7] Article 10(1)-(2) L 4375/2016. The article has not been abolished by the IPA and remains the same.

[8] Article 10(4) L 4375/2016. The article has not been abolished by the IPA and remains the same.

[9]Article 10(5) L 4375/2016. The article has not been abolished by the IPA and remains the same.

[10]  Article 11 (2)(d) of L. 4650/2019, on the Regulation of Issues pertaining to the Ministry of Defence and other matters.

[11] JMD 3/5262, “Establishment of the Open Facility for the hospitality of asylum seekers and persons

belonging to vulnerable groups in Eleonas Attica Region”, 18 September 2015, Gov. Gazette B2065/18.09.2015; JMD 3.2/6008 “Establishment of the Open Facility for the temporary reception of applicant of international protection”, 18 September 2015, Gov. Gazette B’ 1940/6.06.2017.

[12]  JMD 3/14762, “Establishment of Open Facilities for the Temporary Hospitality of applicant for international protection”, Gov. Gazette Β’ 3720/16.11.2016.

[13]  JMD 2945/2020, Establishment of Open Accommodation Facilities for third country nationals who have applied for asylum, Gov. Gazette Β’ 1016/26.3.2020.

[14] Information provided by DPAS on 14 January 2020.

[15] Idem.

[16] IOM, Improving the Greek Reception System through Site Management Support and Targeted Interventions in Long-Term Accommodation Sites, available at: https://bit.ly/3dTmgGP.

[17] UNHCR, Greece: Accommodation for Relocation Project Factsheet, 1 July 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2lNOmLG.

[18] European Commission, ‘European Commission and UNHCR launch scheme to provide 20,000 reception places for asylum seekers in Greece’, IP/15/6316, 14 December 2015.

[19] UNHCR, ‘Interview with UNHCR Representative in Greece on housing programme for asylum-seekers’, 19 February 2018, available at: http://bit.ly/2sJf6lh.

[20]  European Commissoin, ‘Greece – End of activation of the Emergency Support Instrument (DG ECHO)’, 13 February 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2Sll5UV.

[21] UNHCR, Accommodation Update (December 2018), 10 January 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/3031pdN.

[22]UNHCR, Population breakdown in ESTIA Accommodation Scheme (as of 31 December 2019), 31 December 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/37IxN82; UNHCR, Greece – Accommodation Update (December 2019), available at: https://bit.ly/39OhJ6A.

[23]  AIDA, Country Report Greece, 2016 Update, March 2017, 100 et seq.

[24] UNHCR, Explanatory Memorandum to UNHCR’s Submission to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on developments in the management of asylum and reception in Greece, May 2017, 10.

[25] Greek Government, “Political Press Briefing – the Government’s Operational Plan for dealing with the migrant issue”, 20 November 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2RO2Kml.

[26] Council of Europe, “Commissioner seeks information from the Greek government on its plans to set-up closed reception centres on the Aegean islands”, 3 December 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/38X2GX4.

[27]  For instance, see GCR, “The Greek Authorities announcements on the refugee issue are in contrast to national and international law”, 21 November 2019, available (in Greek) at: https://bit.ly/36Q4Oyu; The Guardian, “Aid groups condemn Greece over 'prison' camps for migrants”, 25 November 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2S4YXzW

[28] For instance, see ekathimerini, “More protests against new island centres on the way”, 10 January 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/31fwkEp.

 

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