There are three different categories of housing facilities for refugees in Greece: 1. reception places (mainly for unaccompanied minors and a few families); 2. the transit camps with usually very difficult living conditions; 3. Squats and solidarity spaces that offer accommodation without any involvement of government and authorities.
What is the overall situation for housing and accommodation on the mainland?
Upon arrival to Greece, and after release from the Registration and Identification Centres (RICs) in Evros and on the Aegean Islands (here so called hotspots), there are three different categories of housing facilities for refugees in Greece:
1. Reception places in:
A. shelters run by NGOs or
B. flats financed by the UNHCR accommodation scheme (mainly for asylum seekers and specifically vulnerable persons);
2. The transit camps, officially “temporary accommodation sites”, managed by the Ministry of Migration Policy and the military (for people with papers that arrived after the end of 2015 and who got transferred there by the authorities);
3. Squats and solidarity spaces that offer accommodation without any involvement of government and authorities for people in need independently of their legal status.
1. Reception places:
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. As they are run by different organizations, they may not only be different in the locations, but also in standards, size, equipment and services provided. Access is provided for upon a housing application through the Asylum Service or an NGO. Places are co-ordinated by a state-run office: EKKA, the National Center for Social Solidarity.
Additionally, since the many arrivals of refugees in 2015 and the closure of the Balkan corridor in early 2016, the UNHCR by the end of 2017 is providing for more or less 18,000 places in flats, hotels and other structures. Access is managed through application to NGOs managing those flats, such as PRAKSIS, Caritas, ARSIS and others.
In general, you can apply for this form of housing after you register your asylum / relocation / family reunification claim at the Asylum Service or in vulnerable cases also before and with the help of NGOs.
2. Transit camps:
There are at the end of 2017 currently 26 temporary accommodation sites in mainland Greece hosting by end of October 2017 about 12,000 refugees. Among the largest are: Skaramangas, Diavata, Koutsochero, Eleonas and Nea Kavala. These transit camps which are officially called “temporary accommodation sites”, were created over night when the border to FYROM closed on 8 March 2016, and thousands had to be housed after the evictions of Idomeni and Piraeus informal settlements. The army was tasked to create emergency housing and mass tent camps mushroomed mainly along the highway from Athens to Idomeni. In the majority of cases they were placed far from the urban centers, and in some cases in unhealthy locations. In the first months, the living conditions were inhuman and services non-existent. Ever since, tents have been replaced with prefab houses in all camps of the mainland. Some of the camps were closed down for good, others got renovated and re-opened. Today, these camps host still some refugees who arrived in Greece before the EU-Turkey Deal of 18 March 2016, but in the majority of cases there are vulnerable newcomers, who got transferred by the authorities from the Aegean Islands there. The official mechanism coordinating and managing the access to the camp is KEPOM. Transfers in the camps are organized and decided by KEPOM with the help of UNHCR and the Migration Ministry. This means, a place in the camp is given only by the official transfer. One cannot decide in which camp one wants to be, but the authorities decide this. One can not be housed there officially and with access to all services without having papers and even persons having papers who find themselves a place in one of those camps, have severe problems to regularize their stay thereafter. In view of the high degree of vulnerability among the residents, the marginality of the camps, the lack of security and services as well as the lack of future prospects are to be named as major problems.
3. Squats and places of solidarity:
Open borders, open houses!
Since 2015 and with the gradual closure of the border to FYROM in the North of Greece solidarity structure opened alternative housing structures. They are housing 15-400 persons each. More than 1,000 refugees are hosted in this way by the civil society and without any funding. In Athens, most of the squats are located in Exarhia area, and around Victoria Square.
The huge gap in the official accommodation provided for by the state affects currently mainly the newly from the land border arriving protection seekers, who over weeks and even months do not manage to access the asylum procedure, and thus stay irregularized and without papers and support. It also affects hundreds of highly vulnerable persons who leave the islands in search of proper support and escaping the inhuman living conditions in the infamous hot spots. Lastly, there are dozens of recognized refugees who have no support for housing as well as highly vulnerable persons who cannot stay in official structures for a variety of reasons, but mainly because they do not feel safe there or have no adequate support. Especially during winter, where homelessness is a question of mere survival, the refugee squats are not only offering alternative ways of living together in solidarity but they are saving lives.
As places are limited and usually full; many times priority is given to very vulnerable persons like families with children, single parents or women, the sick, disabled or elderly and others. All the squats are run solely by donations with the collective help of activists and refugees staying together there.
Attention! This is not an official accommodation structure by the state. People hosted in these structures therefore do not receive the Cash-Card. This is obviously a repressive measure by the government, who wants to hinder people from staying in these solidarity structures.
List of Squats in Athens:
Facebook: Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza
Facebook: Κατάληψη Στέγης Προσφύγων/Μεταναστών Νοταρά 26
Facebook: Φιλοξενία Προσφύγων 5ο Λύκειο Αθηνών
Arachovis 44 / Single Men squat
Facebook: Arachovis 44
Facebook: Πολιτική Κατάληψη Στέγης Μεταναστών-Αλληλέγγυων Κάνιγγος 22
Facebook: Κατάληψη Στέγης Προσφύγων Hotel Oniro
Spirou Trikoupi 17
Facebook: Spirou Trikoupi 17
Facebook: 4Η Φιλοξενια Προσφυγων Υπουrγειο - Αharnon 22