KEERFA, a leading humanitarian and anti-racism organisation in Greece, has heavily criticized the Greek government's plan to proceed with the mass evictions of refugees staying in various parts of the country.
Protests have been taking place in Athens after Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis announced on Thursday that 60 of the 93 hospitality facilities created in hotels for asylum seekers on the mainland would be closed in 2020. Starting from June 1, residents will be transferred to other facilities in Greece or will be referred to the UN Refugee Agency's ESTIA (Emergency Support to Integration and Accommodation) integration program, which was put in place with the help of the EU to offer urban accommodation and financial aid to asylum-seekers in Greece.
The decision will affect approximately 11,000 people who have secured asylum in Greece but are still living in the reception-style facilities and subsidized hotels, located mainly in the Athens and Thessaloniki areas.
Fear of rise in homeless migrants
The Movement United Against Facism and the Racist Threat, KEERFA, reacted to the announcement with strong concern. It said that the vague information about transferring people to alternative facilities means that there is a high risk of many being left homeless in the process. KEERFA warned that town squares across the country could be filled with people sleeping rough.
KEERFA coordinator and municipal councilor of Athens, Petros Konstantinou, said that Immigration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarakis was proceeding "with a plan to evict more than 10,000 people, which includes 300 from the camp of Eleonas, 300 from the camp of Schistos, 500 from Skaramagkas, 1200 from Thessaloniki area from the camps and from houses."
He added that towns across Greece would be filled homeless people, "and we're talking about refugees. Mothers with children, people who have been granted asylum but no longer have the opportunity to live on their own since they will have their allowance cut, have not been given the opportunity to learn the language, and not been given the chance to integrate properly."
Housing reform needed
Konstantinou stressed that the only solution for all refugees was to be relocated in houses within the two cities: "We have submitted proposals to the municipalities - both the municipality of Athens and to other municipalities, saying that several available buildings must be used immediately.
"There must be a massive social housing program for all, for the homeless, for refugees and for Roma and Sinti people. That was our request and it still is," he emphasized.
Meanwhile mass protests took place outside the Greek Immigration and Asylum Ministry on Thursday after Minister Mitarakis revealed the state's plans on migrant and refugee accommodation. Mitarakis addressed 32 governors who have been appointed to oversee facilities on the mainland during a training seminar, characterizing the move as a "major overhaul." He told reporters afterwards that "this will be the first time that these facilities will have governors, who will report directly to the Greek State."
According to Mitarakis, the selection of the 32 governors was made based on their formal qualifications and on their ability to manage the facilities.