Refugees and asylum seekers cut their hair at the Moria camp on Lesbos, Greece | Credit: EPA/Orestis Panagiotou
Refugees and asylum seekers cut their hair at the Moria camp on Lesbos, Greece | Credit: EPA/Orestis Panagiotou

The UN agency, International Organization for Migration (IOM), has said that over 10,000 migrants have voluntarily left Greece and returned to their countries of origin over the past 20 months.

More than 10,000 migrants voluntarily returned in safety from Greece to their countries of origin between June 2016 and April 2018, with nearly 2,500 migrants qualifying to receive financial support aimed at reintegration, said the UN agency International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

The UN agency said it has assisted a total of 10,576 voluntary repatriations in 84 countries and territories in the past 20 months, through a program of assisted voluntary return and reintegration (AVRR), financed by the EU and Greece. 

Eighty percent of repatriations from five countries 

Of those repatriated, 8,375 were men, 2,125 were woman, and special assistance was provided to 77 unaccompanied child migrants in reuniting them with their families. Five countries made up over 80 percent of repatriations: Pakistan (3,105), Iraq (1,980), Afghanistant (1,096), Georgia (1,044), and Algeria (986). 

As the first step in the AVRR program, IOM workers evaluate whether potential beneficiaries want to return home, informing them of their legal options in Greece. The migrants are then provided with added consulting to inform them about the situation in their countries of origin and to determine their needs in terms of reintegration into their communities. A plan is then developed in consultation with the migrant, taking his or her needs into account, as well as the specifics of their country. 

Assistance with starting businesses 

With the support of social workers, psychologists and cultural mediators, IOM conducted 4,624 consultation interviews regarding the provision of financial support for reintegration into the migrants' communities of origin. 

About 2,487 people were deemed suitable for the program and received assistance for reintegration. The majority of the beneficiaries (2,261) managed to open small businesses that can contribute to the social and economic sustainability of their communities. 

Among these is Fadil, from Morocco, who opened a butcher shop in Marrakech after returning, using the reintegration aid from the AVRR program. 

"Staff from IOM Greece recently came to evaluate my business and I am really proud to show that my shop is neat and clean," he said. "I also got a sanitary license from the commune. My business is running well as there are no similar shops in the area." 

IOM has also established an Open Center for migrants who have been registered for assisted voluntary return and reintegration (OCAVRR). It is situation near the center of Athens providing pre-departure assistance to migrants in the return program who do not have a place to stay. (Refugees and migrants cut their hair at the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos island in Greece. Credit: EPA/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU)

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