EU plea: Bloc urged to resolve horror housing row as Greece crisis deepens

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Organisations such as the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the UN have demanded the Greek government try to support those who now have no safe space to return to after they were forced out on Monday. It has created genuine panic among refugees and locals, who are concerned that those on the streets could face new horrors, just months after making the trip from Turkey to the bloc. The IRC is now calling on the EU to publish a new action plan on how it could “prioritise integration support” for asylum seekers as well as refugees stuck on the islands of Greece.

Initially, refugees across Greece were offered apartments as part of the Emergency Support to Integration and Accommodation (ESTIA) project.

But with it no longer in operation, the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) claimed more than 9,000 could now be affected by the change and left to fend for themselves.

Athens has defended its decision, with the country’s secretary of asylum service, Manos Logothetis, claiming the nation had no option than to make the move in a bid to ease pressure on the other 30,000 refugees living in Greece.

However, speaking to, Martha Roussou – senior advocacy coordinator for IRC Greece, said that although she understood the constraints on the nation, more support was needed especially in the current coronavirus-era.

She said: “Thousands of refugees in Greece rely upon the ESTIA programme for the strongest possible start to rebuilding their lives.

“Although we know that such support cannot last forever, given the extreme pressures posed by a post-COVID world it is vital that more is done to protect these people from destitution.

“Exits from the programme cannot commence without a robust and sustainable plan in place, which should start with integration support as soon as people reach Greece. Moreover, a bridge should be created between ESTIA and support provided by HELIOS, an integration programme implemented by IOM and partners, including the International Rescue Committee.”

Greece is currently in the depths of a devastating tug of war between Turkey and the EU over refugees, who are seeking asylum on the nation’s islands.

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Earlier this year, Turkey made the bombshell move to allow migrants to travel over to Greece – in direct opposition to an agreement it had in place with the EU over allowing refugees into the bloc.

Turkey’s reluctance to continue with the deal came as a result of Brussels’ flawed approach over where the refugees would be rehomed afterwards.

In March, revealed that around 38,000 people had made the arduous journey to Greece, many thousands of them young children.

And Ms Roussou reflected on how the EU could help resolve the ongoing issue between the nations.

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She added: “The integration of refugees in Greece could be further supported by the publication of a new, clear and targeted EU Action Plan that prioritises integration support and access to jobs for asylum seekers as well as the strengths and needs of refugee women in particular.

“Provisions must also be made for people who may never be able to become self-sufficient. We cannot forget that many of the people who depend on the state for their housing and the means to keep themselves and their families fed and safe, are particularly vulnerable and must not be ‘evicted’.

“Older people, people with disabilities or chronic illnesses, are unable to work and more must be done to ensure that they receive the support needed to thrive.”

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