04 Jun The endless search for home
We are extremely alarmed at the recent changes the Greek government made to asylum regulations. They are speeding up evictions from camps and protected apartments, removing all refugees who have received their asylum.
Refugees should leave camps and integrate into local life, but a long-term plan needs to exist for that transition to happen.
A 6-month grace period was possible until April. Now, refugees have only 30 days to leave the only home they’ve known for the last few years. The pandemic paused the evictions during May, but the Government is eager to resume.
Over 11,000 vulnerable men, women and children are about to lose both a place to live and the small cash assistance they survive on.
This is a callous move. While a refugee awaits their asylum in Greece they do not even have consistent access to language or integration courses. Life during this wait feels like limbo. The wait can last many years; some people wait two years for their first interview.
If serious efforts were made, refugees could come out of that wait fluent in Greek. Instead, their wait is isolating and lonely, similar to the one we collectively experienced during lockdown, making them feel like they are not welcome. This is one of the reasons why we set up Second Tree, to marginally fill that wait with opportunities for refugees to realise their potential and engage in society again.
Once refugees get their asylum the situation doesn’t get much better. They can register for support through the Hellenic Integration Support for Beneficiaries of International Protection programme (HELIOS), an integration project that supports recognised refugees for a maximum of six months.
This is an extremely short timeframe with big expectations: by the end of it, people are supposed to integrate into their new society.
Unfortunately, HELIOS is proving unable to support the refugees that enrolled in 2019, 82% are still waiting to receive their rental subsidies today. It’s fair to assume that the 11,000 people that are evicted this month will not find the urgent support they need there either.
This is why many refugees are reluctant to join: after six months you and your family are on the streets. Would you sign your family up for homelessness?