Greece remains one of UNHCR’s largest operations in Europe, with the Office maintaining a presence throughout the country, including on the five Greek Aegean Islands and in the north and east of the mainland.
The operating environment in Greece will remain fluid and highly dependent on the situation in the region as well as the situation of Covid-19, national and local capacities and policies, and the ongoing discussions in the EU. The main countries of origin will remain Syria and Afghanistan, arriving through Turkey. Significant and increased arrivals may still occur from Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Somalia, as well as from other African countries.
To support asylum-seekers arriving to Greece, UNHCR will work closely with national and local authorities on the design and implementation of integration policies, and on increasing opportunities for refugees to become self-reliant.
Developments in negotiations on the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum during 2021 will affect national policies and legislation. This, combined with the full assumption by the Greek Government of UNHCR’s large-scale assistance programmes for the reception of asylum-seekers and refugees (ESTIA accommodation and cash), will entail a shift in UNHCR engagement in 2021. As such, UNHCR will focus on core protection activities, targeted operational interventions, advocacy and capacity-building of relevant national authorities.
The improved capacity of Greece’s Asylum Service, supported by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), will shorten processing times for asylum adjudication, but UNHCR will continue to concentrate on maintaining safeguards for fairness and quality of asylum procedures.
In 2021, UNHCR will focus on:
- Targeted protection activities with a focus on the Greek Aegean islands, including preventing and responding to gender-based violence (GBV), protecting children and asylum-seekers or refugees most at-risk, offering opportunities for non-formal education, directly working with refugee communities for solutions, providing legal aid as well as information to new arrivals.
- Supporting the inclusion of asylum-seekers and refugees in existing social welfare schemes and other national systems. The aim is to afford asylum-seekers and refugees to live in greater dignity and self-reliance and facilitate their socioeconomic integration.
- Strengthening the expertise of relevant State authorities and other actors to ensure that national protection and care systems have the capacity to respond to the needs of asylum-seekers and refugees, particularly unaccompanied children.
- Providing technical support to enhance Greece’s Asylum Service quality assurance mechanisms and to implement the relocation of asylum-seekers and refugees in other European States.
- Advocating and promoting practical solutions and integrated information management systems within State services that can reinforce the protection of asylum-seekers and refugees; reviewing legislative proposals and offering legal and policy recommendations where relevant.
- Contributing to safeguarding protection standards, access to territory, reception and identifying alternatives to detention.