• Kick-off meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria on 30-31 March 2017. The meeting addressed the aims, activities, deliverables and partner responsibilities of project. For more information here.
  • A study visit in Rome, Italyon 16-19 May 2017. ELIAMEP participated with a team of 8 representatives covering a wide range of interested parties: Dr Rosa Vasilaki from ELIAMEP as project manager of the INTEGRA project; Dr Nadina Christopoulou and doctoral candidate Ms F. Dilara Demir from MELISSA, Network of migrant women; Dr Eleni Zachou, education coordinator at the Elaionas Open Hospitality Structure; Dr Efcharis Mascha, case worker at the Asylum Service; doctoral candidate Ms Anastasia Papakonstantinou, case worker the UNHCR; doctoral candidate Mr Panagiotis Syriopoulos, senior policy advisor at the Labour Research Institute; and Ms Aya Burweila, senior policy advisor at the NGO SOLIDARITY NOW.

                 

At the beginning of the visit, an international seminar presenting the national reception and integration system for asylum seekers and refugees. Visits to four distinct locations provided a view of the Italian system, both with regards to reception and to integration of refugees and asylum seekers:

1. CAS, Centre for Temporary Reception, Via Staderini, where a guided visit gave an insight of the First Reception Centres in Italy. Along with the presentation of the facilities, the groups had the opportunity to discuss with the staff with regards to the reception and integration services provided in the CAS structures.

2. SPRAR, Protection System for Asylum Seekers and Refugees Service, a guided visit to two centres under the SPRAR system, Casa Giorgia and S. Bernardo, along with the opportunity to discuss the architecture of SPRAR as a network of local institutions that implement reception projects for forced migrants. Within the framework of SPRAR, the local institutions, in cooperation with voluntary sector organizations, undertake ‘integrated reception’ interventions beyond covering basic needs such as food and housing, by also providing complementary services such as legal and social guidance and support, and the development of individual programs to promote socioeconomic inclusion and integration.

3. Programma Integra, the City Centre for migration, asylum, and social integration. Programma Integra is a cooperative aiming at developing social integration of migrants and refugees by providing services of legal assistance, counseling and cultural mediation, courses of Italian language and vocational training.

4. Ciofs – Fp Lazio: a Salesian training body, whose educational model is inspired by the pedagogy of Don Bosco. Along with the visit of the facilities, the teams had the opportunity to discuss the project O.R.F.E.O. Occupazione per Rifugiati: Formazione, Empowerment, Opportunità (Occupation for refugees: Training, Empowerment, Opportunities) and to meet a beneficiary of the training course.

The team found that a number of good practices could be transferred to the Greek context:

  • Greece should examine the Italian monitoring system of educational needs and plan and develop vocational training actions for both refugees and asylum seekers, while they await the outcome of their application.
  • The relationships developed by the SPRAR and CAS centres with the neighbourhood –as explained during the study visit – could be a good practice to consider, with respect to the Greek sites’ relations with the nearby communities and in view of future refugee integration.
  • Language and training programmes and programmes such as “Programma Integra’ form good practices that the Greek state should adopt and implement the soonest possible.
  • Language integration programmes should be provided at the earliest stage possible after arrival and should be coordinated by the State. Following the CAS system in Italy, a small but organised school class within camps and hotspots providing basic language skills would be beneficial.
  • A study visit in Barcelona, Spain on 12-14 July 2017. ELIAMEP participated with a team of 5 representatives covering a wide range of interested parties: Dr Rosa Vasilaki from ELIAMEP as project manager of the INTEGRA project; Dr Nadina Christopoulou and doctoral candidate Ms F. Dilara Demir from MELISSA, Network of migrant women; Dr Eleni Zachou, education coordinator at the Elaionas Open Hospitality Structure; Dr Efcharis Mascha, case worker at the Asylum Service.

                                  

On the first day, an international seminar presented the national asylum reception and integration system along with the involvement of the different levels of administration, that is the Spanish Government Representative’s Office, the General Direction for Immigration of the Catalan Government and city councils. A second seminar at the Autonomous University of Barcelona presented the system of first orientation, the trainings offered for refugees and asylum seekers at the first phase, that is language learning, knowing the environment, group sessions about first orientation on the city and host society, domestic economy, as well as the trainings for socio-labour inclusion, such as the professional trainings, group sessions, internships and enrolment facilities offered by the different stakeholders. Visits to three different structures gave an insight of the infrastructure as well as the reception and integration activities taking place in this framework:

 

  1. Casa Bloc, a reception structure managed by the three main NGOs implementing the national reception program for refugees and asylum seekers (Red Cross, Accem and CEAR-CCAR).

 

  1. ‘Peu del Funicular’, a reception centre managed by the Catalan Commission for Refugees covering basic needs as well as comprehensive assistance to asylum seekers together with trainings and orientation.

 

  1. Reception apartments in the campus of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, a scheme which along with accommodation offers the possibility of enrolling for university degree as well as giving the community the opportunity to participate in supporting the refugees via volunteering programmes.

 

The team found that a number of good practices could be transferred to the Greek context:

  • Anti-rumour campaigns and strategies: this practice is excellent in dispelling myths about refugees and generally cultural difference and diversity in the country and in providing counter-arguments to the smearing campaigns of far-right and xenophobic groups and political formations. It could be also excellent in dispelling myths among the refugee community, especially with regards to applying for asylum, encouraging children to attend the Greek school or learn Greek. Many refugees were led to believe that the above would impede their efforts to achieve their aim in settling in a different, Western European country, thus not allowing themselves to enjoy the full rights of asylum seekers, circumventing the effort for universal application of the children’s right to education and impeding their own integration into the Greek society.
  • Mentoring is an excellent practice as it allows the refugee to familiarize with the local society and culture, offers orientation about everyday life but also allows the local community – via the mentors and their social interaction with members of the host society – to develop ties and gain a deeper understanding of the refugee cultures.
  • Pairing refugees with volunteers in the neighbourhood for language practice. Besides the obvious benefit of practicing language skills, such practice allows the refugees to develop ties with the host society, mitigates the effects of institutionalization occurring when one lives in a state of dependency, but also familiarises the locals with the refugees and their cultures.
  • A train-the trainers seminar in Sofia, Bulgaria on 29 November-1 December 2017. Dr Rosa Vasilaki from ELIAMEP as project manager of the INTEGRA project and Dr Eleni Zachou, education coordinator at the Elaionas Open Hospitality Structure participated in the seminar on behalf of Greece. The seminar providing training by way of transferring the experience and expertise from Italy and Spain to the participants from Greece, Bulgaria and Malta. For more information here.

 

DELIVERABLES

Since the start of the project, the following deliverables have been produced:

  •  A national report concluded in July 2017, mapping the training needs of beneficiaries of international protection and the existing mechanisms for training provision in Greece (with focus on women).

This report offered an overview of the existing mechanisms in Greece by looking at the array of stakeholders involved in the process of reception and integration of TNCs, refugees and beneficiaries of international protection in Greece. Along with documenting trends and canvassing the variety of stakeholders and projects, the study offered background information with regards to the peculiarity of socio-political and economic situation in Greece in order to explain the existing difficulties and identify the current challenges with regard to the system of reception and integration. A variety of sources has been used to compile this report: data and information was drawn from the national bodies, the relevant EU agencies, NGOs and other stakeholders, the Greek National Statistics Agency as well as EUROSTAT, in order to sketch a tentative map of the Greek system. Additionally, eight interviews were conducted in order to have a clear picture of the existing provision of information and training in order to formulate a solid outlook on the aspects of training that need to be developed for addressing the integration needs to refugees and refugees and beneficiaries of international protection, and in particular those of women: two interviews were conducted with experts from the Asylum Service, one interview was conducted with an expert from the Greek Forum of Refugees and one interview was conducted with an expert form the Municipality of Athens in charge of the integration and refugee portfolio of the Municipality. Four interviews were conducted with women refugees as well: two from Syria in the process of fast-track asylum application, and two candidates for relocation, one from Syria and one from Iran.

The report found that the main issue in Greece is the lack of systematic efforts in the area of integration of refugees and beneficiaries of international protection. For a variety of reasons – lack of political will and prolonged economic crisis which has greatly affected employment as well as all areas of welfare provision – no integrated system of integration of migrants has been implemented in the past thirty years, that is since Greece started receiving larger waves of migrants, culminating into the 2015-2016 refugee crisis. Also due to the nature of the emergency of the refugee crisis, emphasis has been put on reception – which is a pre-integration phase – rather than on integration per se. Another important factor to take into account is the lack of will of the vast majority of refugees to remain in Greece: the vast majority feels trapped in Greece and still hopes to find a way to continue their journey towards their preferred country of destination, an element which impedes both short term as well as long term integration. The report found that the most urgent and fundamental training need to be addressed is language learning. Language learning is sporadic and entirely dependent on NGOs for the time being. This cannot guarantee the continuity of classes and progression to the next level of learning (as courses tend to address the immediate need to survival or basic Greek) whilst it does not guarantee certification either. Moreover, legal, cultural and civic orientation is necessary. Most of the population lives in camps and have few opportunities of accustoming themselves to the Greek context. Specifically for women, special education on their legal rights needs to be provided, as well as orientation on the role of women in Western societies – many women come from countries where the role of women is very different to the European context. Awareness of exploitation specifically about women should also be given priority as well as knowledge of the legal context and welfare structures providing protection from sexual and gender-based violence. Vocational training should come after all these other steps have been taken following a survey of labour market needs in Greece, to give realistic possibilities of employment. Most importantly, however, all these efforts must become part of an integrated plan: integration is a longer and more complex issue than reception and response to emergency, involving all sectors of the host society and, hence, synergies with all stakeholders but also central coordination and specific aims and objectives to be reached are of paramount importance.

  • training module (in Greek and in English) focused directly to adult and young women, asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protections regardless of the country of origin, but it can be also used as tool for consultation by trainers and by representatives of municipalities and other relevant institutions. Such module does not currently exist in Greece, so in that sense, it is necessary and will cover an important gap in integration efforts. The module a holistic rather than procedural and service-oriented approach. The philosophy underlying the module submits that continuous education in citizenship is a far more efficient integration strategy in comparison to service-oriented approaches as services themselves are absorbed by beneficiaries on a much higher degree when the host society and its institutions are understood and made familiar to the newcomers. In this way, beneficiaries are not envisaged as passive recipients of services but as active citizens with equal rights and opportunities of participation.

A full text in Greek and English will be available here at the end of April 2018.