ATHENS – Some 200 refugees living in apartments and residences paid for with United Nations funds will be forced to move so that others can take their place but Greece’s government said they will still have support and offered a work program.
The government said the move is designed to help them integrate into Greek society but many of them said they are worried more about where they will live, or sleep next and are anxious about their future.
Jean Marc, 23, from the Ivory Coast, has been living in an apartment with four other refugees in Athens since 2017, the rent paid by the UN Refugee Agency but told Euronews that he and the others in the program must move out on March 31.
“I don’t feel very good, because I do nothing. I have no job. I go to school to learn Greek, so I can find a job, any job. But nothing until now. You know, in Athens, it’s not easy to find a job. I want to live my life here and make a family. But as soon as I leave this house, I have to find a place to sleep,” he said.
The program called ESTIA is funded by the European Union and implemented by the UN Refugee Agency in collaboration with Greek NGO’s and covers 22,636 of the more than 70,000 refugees and migrants in the country.
“Now, we are talking about two hundred people,” Boris Cheshirkov, a UN Refugee Agency spokesperson said, saying the move will help the next wave of refugees who need accommodation as they too try to make the transition into Greek society.
“It’s not a significant number, but 200 individuals that are taken from, let’s say from the island of Samos where conditions are quite harsh and given the opportunity to stay in an apartment, where they have access to services, where they will be supported to be active in recreational activities and to study Greek. This is an important development,” he said.
Most of the refugees and migrants in Greece are seeking asylum after the European Union closed its borders to them and reneged on promises to help take an overload from Greece, which is struggling to deal with the applications during a nine-year economic crisis.
“These refugees will continue to receive financial support for a period of three months and have the right to participate in a special work program,” Miltiadis Klapas, Secretary General for Migration Policy told the news site.
“They will receive a good salary. So we continue to support them, even after their exit from the ESTIA program. We want them to feel safe in our country. We want them to integrate into the Greek society,” he added.