The camp on Lesbos island, Kara Tepe, is to be replaced by a 'closed and controlled' facility | Photo: EPA/Vangelis Papantonis
The camp on Lesbos island, Kara Tepe, is to be replaced by a 'closed and controlled' facility | Photo: EPA/Vangelis Papantonis

The Greek government has taken over the management of the cash assistance programme for asylum seekers in Greece from the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).

The Greek arm of the UN refugee agency UNHCR has announced that the Greek government has taken over management of the cash assistance program for asylum seekers. It says the program, which was set up in spring 2017, continues to have a positive effect on the lives of thousands of refugees and migrants in the country.

The program has benefited more than 200,000 vulnerable asylum seekers in Greece, while also contributing to the local economy through the purchase of goods and services.

Under the program, cash is provided to asylum seekers as part of the country's compliance with the Reception Conditions Directive, an EU law which obliges member states to provide "material reception conditions to all asylum seekers in need."

Originally part of ESTIA emergency support program

The cash assistance to asylum seekers in Greece is funded by the European Union. It was originally part of the Emergency Support to Integration and Accommodation (ESTIA) program that began in 2018 and included both an accommodation and a cash assistance component.

ESTIA provides both housing and basic services to vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers in Greece. The accommodation component of ESTIA was handed over to the Greek government last year. UNHCR has worked closely with the Greek authorities toward the transition of ESTIA.

Cash assistance reinforces migrants' dignity

"Cash assistance reinforces the dignity of those who have been forced to flee, enabling them to meet their basic needs and to decide for themselves how they do so," said Mireille Girard, UNHCR representative in Greece.

After over four years of managing the cash assistance program, UNHCR completed its last payment, which covered through September 30, 2021.

The ESTIA program has shown positive outcomes for both local communities and asylum seekers, supporting social cohesion and integration. UNHCR will continue to support the Greek government in its efforts to ensure that ESTIA continues to be successful.

"It is important that all asylum seekers in need of support continue to receive it without interruption and that they are informed about the new program during this transition," Girard said.

Greek government thanks UNHCR

In a statement, the Greek Ministry for Migration and Asylum said it "thanks the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for its cooperation so far and the European Commission for the funding."

"With this transition, and in combination with the implementation of the ESTIA housing program undertaken by the ministry starting September 2020 (ESTIA II, and later ESTIA 2021), the country covers its obligations to provide material assistance to asylum seekers," the statement said.

"The transition of the programs from the international organizations to the Ministry for Migration and Asylum is an important step, and constitutes part of the government's plan for full recovery of control in migration."

 

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