Types of accommodation

Greece

Author

Greek Council for Refugees

The Greek reception system has been long criticised as inadequate, not least since the M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece ruling of the ECtHR. Since mid-2015, and as Greece was facing large-scale arrivals of refugees, those shortcomings have become increasingly apparent. However and as throughout 2015, Greece was marked by a fast-paced transit of high numbers of refugees and migrants entering its territory en route to Northern or Central European countries, a short-term assistance approach prevailed. 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 to in Greece, created inter alia an unprecedented burden on the Greek reception system.1

Parallel to the official reception system managed by the National Centre for Social Solidarity (Εθνικό Κέντρο Κοινωνικής Αλληλεγγύης, EKKA), a number of temporary camps have been put in place in the mainland in order to tackle the dire need for accommodation. However, only “few sites meet humanitarian standards as basic needs and essential services are not always delivered.”2 Moreover, a UNHCR accommodation scheme has been in place since the last months of 2015, primarily dedicated to asylum seekers eligible for relocation, and including Dublin family reunification candidates and vulnerable applicants since July 2016.

The April 2016 law has provided a legal basis for the establishment of different accommodation facilities. In addition to Reception and Identification Centres,3 the Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Migration Policy may, by joint decision, establish open Temporary Reception Facilities for Asylum Seekers (Δομές Προσωρινής Υποδοχής Αιτούντων Διεθνή Προστασία),4 as well as open Temporary Accommodation Facilities (Δομές Προσωρινής Φιλοξενίας) for persons subject to return procedures or whose return has been suspended.5 Notwithstanding these provisions, most temporary accommodation centres and emergency facilities operate without a prior Ministerial Decision and the requisite legal basis.

 

National Centre for Social Solidarity (EKKA) referral network

Despite the commitment of the Greek authorities to meet a target of 2,500 reception places dedicated to asylum seekers by the end of 2014,6 reiterated in August 2015,7 this number has not been reached to date.

As of January 2017, a total 1,896 places were available in 64 reception facilities mainly run by NGOs, out of which 1,312 are dedicated to unaccompanied children. More precisely this number includes:

(a)   584 places for asylum seekers (mainly families and vulnerable asylum seekers) in 14 reception centres


















Reception centres for asylum seekers in the EKKA network

Reception centre for asylum seekers

Location

Capacity

PRAKSIS (Apartments)

Athens

120

PRAKSIS (Crisis)

Athens

7

Youth and Lifelong Learning Foundation

Athens

60

Nostos

Athens

70

Nostos (Mellon)

Athens

42

Doctors of the World

Athens

70

Doctors of the World (Deligiorgi)

Athens

60

Arsis

Athens

48

EKKA

Thessaloniki

12

Arsis (Filoxenio)

Thessaloniki

28

Arsis (Apartments)

Thessaloniki

9

Hellenic Red Cross

Patras

40

Arsis (Apartments)

Volos

8

Iliaktida (Apartments)

Lesvos

10

Total

 

584

Source: EKKA, 9 January 2017.

(b)   813 places in 28 long-term shelters for unaccompanied children; and

(c)   499 places in 22 short-term (“transit”) shelters for unaccompanied children

The long-term and transit centres for unaccompanied children are discussed in Reception of Unaccompanied Children.

EKKA is the competent authority for the placement of the applicants.8 The placement of the asylum seekers to these shelters is not automatic, as a request for placement should be to the NCSS, the number of available places remains insufficient and a waiting list exists. This can be particularly problematic for the reception of unaccompanied children.

According to EKKA, the total number of requests for accommodation received in 2016 was 14,873 compared to 4,087 requests submitted in the respective period of 2015.9 This represents an increase in accommodation demand of 264%. The increase of available reception capacity does not follow the same rate: in November 2015 a total 1,271 places were reported,10 while at the end of 2016 the number of reception places under EKKA, including short-term facilities for unaccompanied children, is 1,896 places, indicating an increase of 49%.

In particular, there are stark variations in the rate of accommodation requests satisfied between the first quarter of 2016, during the gradual imposition of border restrictions leading to the closure of the Western Balkan route in March 2016, and subsequent quarters:









Rate of accommodation requests satisfied: 1 January – 31 December 2016

Category of applicant

Q1

Q2

Q3

Q4

Total 2016

Number of requests

2,041

3,739

4,979

4,114

14,873

Adults

38%

20%

21.5%

43.6%

30.7%

Families

88%

5.2%

5%

6.7%

26.2%

Single-parent families

95%

14.5%

13.5%

26.5%

37.4%

Unaccompanied children

90.1%

33%

43.4%

61.2%

56.9%

All categories

79.7%

21.2%

20.4%

30.5%

38%

Source: EKKA, Statistics on housing requests by asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors, Q1 2016: http://www.ekka.org.gr/portal_docs/news/391.pdf; Q2 2016: http://www.ekka.org.gr/portal_docs/news/398.pdf; Q3 2016: http://www.ekka.org.gr/portal_docs/news/426.pdf; Q4 2016: http://www.ekka.org.gr/portal_docs/news/439.pdf.

Most requests for a reception place under EKKA concerned Syrian nationals during the second (47.8%), third (54.4%) and fourth (37.9%) quarters of 2016.11

 

Temporary accommodation centres

As mentioned above, in order to address the needs of persons remaining in Greece after the imposition of border restrictions, a number of temporary camps has been created in the mainland in order to increase accommodation capacity, mainly by the Hellenic Army. Placement in these camps takes place after submitting a referral to the Central Operational Body for Migration (Κεντρικό Επιχειρησιακό Όργανο Μετανάστευσης, KEPOM) under the Ministry of Migration Policy.

Without underestimating the effort made by the Greek authorities in order to address an urgent situation, the following remarks should be made as regards temporary camps and accommodation:

  1. Their legal status remains unclear and different administrative authorities are responsible for their operation in practice.12 Only two of these open accommodation facilities, located in Leros and Elaionas, Attica, have been officially established;13


  2. Their quality is inadequate for long-term reception in most of the cases (see Conditions in Reception Facilities). As reported in December 2016 “no decision has been taken… regarding which facilities should be made permanent”.14


  3. Given the variety of types of accommodation facilities, exact data on each facility should be provided. The European Commission has stated that “it is of utmost importance that the Greek authorities provide more exact data on the reception capacity and a comprehensive and continuously updated needs assessment in terms of total reception capacity and the nature of that capacity.”15

According to the data published by the Coordination Body for the Management of the Refugee Crisis (Συντονιστικό Όργανο Διαχείρισης Προσφυγικής Κρίσης), as of 21 February 2017, a total 14,350 persons were accommodated in these sites, which counted a total a nominal capacity of 30,676 places.  More precisely:












































Temporary accommodation centres per region: 21 February 2017

Temporary accommodation centre

Nominal capacity

“Guests” at 21 Feb 2017

Northern Greece

15,550

3,455

Polykastro (Nea Kavala)

4,200

853

Pieria (Iraklis Farm)

200

38

Veroia Imathias (Armatolou Kokkinou Camp)

400

259

Alexandria Imathias (Pelagou Camp)

1,200

418

Diavata (Anagnostopoulou Camp)

2,500

363

Derveni-Alexil

850

97

Thessaloniki (Sindos-Frakapor)

600

53

Thessaloniki (Kordelio-Softex)

1,900

450

Thessaloniki (Sinatex-Kavalari)

500

165

Vassilika (Kordogiannis Farm)

1,500

72

Derveni-Dion Avete

400

154

Konitsa (Municipality)

200

150

Ioannina (Doliana)

400

145

Preveza-Filippiada (Petropoulaki Camp)

700

238

 

 

 

Central Greece

4,160

3,083

Larrisa-Koutsohero (Efthimiopoulou Camp)

1,500

978

Volos (Magnesia Prefecture)

1,500

978

Trikala (Atlantik)

360

217

Oinofyta, Voiotia

600

679

Ritsona, Evoia (A.F. Camp)

1,000

679

Thermopyles-Fthiotida

500

442

 

 

 

Southern Greece

300

164

Andravida (Municipality)

300

164

 

 

 

Attica

10,666

7,796

Elaionas

2,500

1,984

Schisto

2,000

950

Skaramangas

3,200

3,200

Elefsina (Merchant Marine Academy)

346

320

Malakasa

1,500

483

Rafina

120

118

Lavrio (Hosting area for asylum seekers)

600

407

Lavrio (Ministry of Agriculture Summer Camp)

400

334

 

 

 

Non-official settlements

4,100

1,517

Hockey Field (“Elliniko I”)

1,400

514

Airport Arrivals Area (“Elliniko II”)

1,400

689

Baseball Field (“Elliniko III”)

1,300

314

Source: Coordination Body for the Management of the Refugee Crisis, Summary statement of refugee flows, 21 February 2017: http://mindigital.gr/index.php/%CF%80%CF%81%CE%BF%CF%83%CF%86%CF%85%CE%B3%CE%B9%CE%BA%CF%8C-%CE%B6%CE%AE%CF%84%CE%B7%CE%BC%CE%B1-refugee-crisis/988-summary-statement-of-refugee-flows-21-02-2017. The term “guest” is used in the summary statement.

According to the statistics of the Coordination Body for the Management of the Refugee Crisis, a number of camps in the mainland, with a total nomimal capacity of 13,251 places, do not accomodate any person as of 21 February 2017 and are characterised as being “in waiting”.

Places described as “non-official settlements” refer to the Elliniko complex, one of the first temporary facilities to be set up by the authorities in December 2015.16 Until 13 June 2016, the Elliniko complex near Athens, including the old airport, a hockey stadium and a baseball stadium, was considered an official accommodation centre by the Coordination Body for the Management of the Refugee Crisis, yet as of 16 June 2016 all three sites are described as unofficial settlements.17

Despite commitments by the authorities to close the complex by 20 June 2016,18 the three facilities in Elliniko still host asylum seekers to date. Residents went on hunger strike at the beginning of February 2017 to protest against the deplorable living conditions prevailing in these camps.19

 

UNHCR accommodation scheme

In November 2015, UNHCR started implementing a project on accommodation for relocation candidates (“Accommodation for Relocation”) through its own funds.20 Following a Delegation Agreement signed between the European Commission and UNHCR in December 2015,21 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.

Following on a revision of the agreement in July 2016, the scheme was also extended to other asylum applicants, mainly to Dublin family reunification candidates and applicants belonging to vulnerable groups.22 The target of 20,000 places was reached in December 2016 according to UNHCR.23 Moreover, as the Delegation Agreement ended on 31 December 2016, further discussions have started for the extension of the scheme in 2017.24 The European Commission is reported to have asked the available places for 2017 to be reduced to 15,000 based on the estimated needs.25

More precisely as of 21 February 2017, the relevant data with regard the UNHCR accommodation scheme are as follows:26











UNHCR accommodation scheme: 21 February 2017

Type of accommodation

Capacity

Apartments

11,149

Hotels

5,226

Buildings (Camps)

1,808

Host families

372

Places for unaccompanied children

732

Total number of places

19,287

Total number of beneficiaries

25,817

Occupancy rate

79%

 

The islands and 'hybrid' accommodation in the hotspots

On the islands, even if after 20 March 2016 the number of arrivals have significantly decreased, the entry into force of the EU-Turkey statement has led to a practice of blanket detention of all newly arrived person on the hotspot facilities for a period of 25 days. After this period, an obligation to remain on the island and to reside in the hotspot facilities for an uncertain period is imposed to newly arrived third-country nationals, resulting in a serious overcrowding of the available facilities.

In practice, for the first 25 days, newly arrived are de facto detained under a decision imposing a freedom of movement restriction within the premises of the hotspot. After the expiry of this deadline, they are free to enter and exit the hotspot when they wish to. The gate control is conducted by the Police, which is responsible for protecting the perimeter of the premises, but not for the area inside the hotspot, since it claims that this does not fall within its competence. However, cameras are installed for the control and increase of security in the area. Control of the area outside the hotspot is also provided by a private security company.27

The hotspot facilities are used for a hybrid scheme of detention / reception of the newly arrived, where the same facilities serve as detention centres for 25 days and then become a place of open accommodation. Beyond the hotspots, each island has a number of facilities, most of which are run by NGOs for the temporary accommodation of vulnerable groups, such as families, people with health conditions and unaccompanied children.

As of 21 February 2017, a total 14,410 newly arrived were remaining on the Eastern Aegean islands. The nominal capacity of facilities, including official informal sites and other state-run and UNHCR facilities, as at 9,014 places. More precisely, the figures reported by the Coordination Body for the Management of the Refugee Crisis are as follows:












Accommodation on the Eastern Aegean islands: 21 February 2017

Island

Structures (Reception and Identification Centres)

Hosting facilities

 

Nominal capacity

Guests

Guests

Lesvos

3,500

4,563

825

Chios

1,100

837

2,462

Samos

850

1,659

199

Leros

1,000

582

260

Kos

1,000

1,702

642

Others

-

-

679

UNHCR (all islands)

1,564

-

1,357

Total

9,014

7,986 [sic]

6,424

Source: Coordination Body for the Management of the Refugee Crisis, Summary statement of refugee flows, 21 February 2017: http://mindigital.gr/index.php/%CF%80%CF%81%CE%BF%CF%83%CF%86%CF%85%CE%B3%CE%B9%CE%BA%CF%8C-%CE%B6%CE%AE%CF%84%CE%B7%CE%BC%CE%B1-refugee-crisis/987-summary-statement-of-refugee-flows-to-eastern-aegean-islands-21-02-2017. The term “guest” is used in the summary statement to refer to occupancy, while the term “structures” is used to describe the RIC. “Hosting facilities” refers to UNHCR and other state-run facilities on the islands.

It should be noted that the total figures provided by the Coordination Body for the capacity and occupancy of the RIC do not seem to match the aggregate of capacity and occupancy per island. Moreover, it seems that there is a certain ambiguity as regards the data provided by the Coordination Body. According to the Summary Statement, the term “Hosting Facilities” refers among others to UNHCR facilities on the islands, however the latter are also mentioned separately as “UNHCR Total Islands”.  

Beyond that, it needs to be underlined that, although this is the officially declared total capacity of the islands, GCR has found through on-site missions during 2016 that the actual capacity is usually much more limited. This can be due to various factors, such as the fact that several of the containers in the hotspots have been damaged or completely destroyed, either because they are old and were already not functional when they were being installed in the hotspot, or because the residents have destroyed them.

The example of Leros is very illustrative: The desperation of many newcomers, who remained on the island in a status of complete idleness and perpetual waiting for the completion of administrative procedures, deprived of any information regarding developments affecting them, has led to small riots, like the one in July 2016, when significant damage was caused to the premises of the hotspot, mainly to containers intended for the work of the administrative staff.28 Out of the 120 containers, 15 were in complete disuse. At all events, representatives of the RIS, whom the GCR mission had contacted, reported that it was really important to find a solution especially with regard to strengthening the overall capacity of the hotspot.29

  • 1. See also AIRE Centre and ECRE, With Greece: Recommendations for refugee protection, July 2016, 7-8.
  • 2. UNHCR, Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan for Europe - Eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkans Route, January-December 2016, January 2016, 50. Recital 12 Commission Recommendation C(2016) 8525 on the resumption of transfers to Greece under Regulation (EU) No 604/2013, 8 December 2016.
  • 3. Article 10(1)-(2) L 4375/2016.
  • 4. Article 10(3) L 4375/2016.
  • 5. Article 10(4) L 4375/2016.
  • 6. UNHCR, UNHCR observations on the current asylum system in Greece, December 2014, available at: http://bit.ly/1NPNiz8.
  • 7. Ministry of Interior and Administrative Reconstruction, ‘Creation of 2,500 Open Reception Places for Refugees until the end of 2015’, 12 August 2015, available in Greek at: http://bit.ly/1fuGwyY.
  • 8. EMN, The Organisation of reception facilities for asylum seekers in the different Member States, 2013, available at: http://bit.ly/1J7ipn3, 13.
  • 9. EKKA, Statistics on housing requests by asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors, Q1 2016: http://bit.ly/2mdPUMn; Q2 2016: http://bit.ly/2l9UI4o; Q3 2016: http://bit.ly/2m9azEC; Q4 2016: http://bit.ly/2mCC88i.
  • 10. AIDA, Country Report Greece: Fourth Update, November 2015.
  • 11. EKKA, Statistics on housing requests by asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors, 2016.
  • 12. Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Refugees at risk in Greece, Doc. 14082, 7 June 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2m9oryB.
  • 13. 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 4D/8484 “Establishment of the Open Facility for the temporary reception of International Protection Applicants on the island of Leros”, 13 July 2016, Gov. Gazette B 2177/13.07.2016.
  • 14. Recital 13 Commission Recommendation C(2016) 8525, 8 December 2016.
  • 15. Ibid.
  • 16. ECRE, Comments on the Commission Recommendation relating to the reinstatement of Dublin transfers to Greece, February 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2lMXnVf, 8-9.
  • 17. AIRE Centre and ECRE, With Greece: Recommendations for refugee protection, July 2016, 22-23.
  • 18. Kathimerini. ‘Μουζάλας: Tο Ελληνικό θα αδειάσει έως τις 20 Ιουνίου’, 25 May 2016, available in Greek at: http://bit.ly/2lHkccs.
  • 19. Ta Nea, ‘Απεργία πείνας ξεκίνησαν οι πρόσφυγες στο Ελληνικό’, 5 February 2017, available in Greek at: http://bit.ly/2mn7jkR.
  • 20. UNHCR, Greece: Accommodation for Relocation Project Factsheet, 1 July 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2lNOmLG.
  • 21. 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.
  • 22. Recital 11 Commission Recommendation C(2016) 8525, 8 December 2016.
  • 23. UNHCR, ‘UNHCR’s accommodation scheme reaches goal of 20,000 places’, 16 December 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2lIbJFQ.
  • 24. Recital 11 Commission Recommendation C(2016) 8525, 8 December 2016.
  • 25. Ethnos, ‘Ύπατη Αρμοστεία: Τον γενικό συντονισμό για τις δομές φιλοξενίας είχε το υπ. Μεταναστευτικής Πολιτικής και η Κομισιόν’, 26 January 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2l2zuo0.
  • 26. UNHCR, Weekly accommodation update, 21 February 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2lNGTwe.
  • 27. GCR, GCR Mission to Kos and Leros, May-November 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2kP9AZX, 15.
  • 28. Efsyn, ‘Refugee riot in the hotspot of Leros’, 8 July 2016, available in Greek at: http://bit.ly/2maqRx4.
  • 29. GCR, GCR Mission to Kos and Leros, May-November 2016, 8-9.

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database managed by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detenti