By Magda Panoutsopolou
ATHENS (AA) - Over 10,000 refugees in Greece that have been granted asylum now face eviction from accommodation facilities where they are currently staying.
The country's Ministry of Migration Policy plans to replace these refugees with asylum seekers on Aegean islands in an attempt to decongest camps there.
These facilities are intended to accommodate asylum-seekers whose applications are still being processed.
As soon as they are granted asylum, they are obliged to leave the facilities after a grace period of one month, according to a new legal framework.
- Criticism from European Parliament
Cornelia Ernst, a member of the European Parliament, criticized Greece by saying the decision could leave many refugees homeless and without financial means, partly due to the suspension of public services as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"Two thousand asylum seekers have had their applications refused during the lockdown, and have only been given one week to appeal while most COVID-19 measures remain in place. The deadline is this Friday," said the German lawmaker.
She added: "Urgent action is required to change the course of the Greek government, stop the evictions and make sure the deadlines are fair!"
- Evictions to begin on June 1
Of more than 6,500 refugees living in apartments funded by the UN refugee body's ESTIA integration support program, 2,500 live in accommodation centers, 1,500 having never left these facilities even though they were granted asylum.
These refugees who have been given asylum are not entitled to stay in these facilities and will have to secure their own means of accommodation.
The ministry issued a press release announcing that there would be a coordinated and gradual effort to evacuate recognized refugees from those premises starting June 1.
Notis Mltarakis in a press release on his personal website said the HELIOS program of the International Organization for Migration was an integration program specifically for recognized asylum seekers to receive asylum and become refugees.
This program, in collaboration with local authorities, will aim to promote the integration into Greek society of recipients of international protection residing in temporary accommodations.
It will offer integration courses, accommodation and employability support, integration monitoring and sensitization of host communities.
The ministry underlined that recognized refugees were treated as per the country's laws and its international obligations, and were subject to social solidarity principles as managed by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Therefore, their smooth transition to the new reality is ensured.
Stella Nanou, a press official at the UNHCR, said integration would be a challenge as many of them faced language barriers and limited job prospects.
That is why they must be given effective access to national employability or social solidarity schemes, which are in any case foreseen in Greek law, she added.