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Greece: Population Movement - Emergency Appeal (MDRGR001) Operations update n° 7

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Situation Report
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Summary of major revisions made to emergency plan of action:

This operation update is to report on progress made from 1 May to 25 October 2017 against the programmes outlined in the revised Emergency Plan of Action. During the reporting period, some programmes did not materialize for various reasons, while some additional interventions have been supported by the Appeal due to the needs identified. The move to transit from emergency relief to greater integration-focused and longer term (and more sustainable) programmes continues to be reinforced with the development of an Operational Plan for Greece (pending approval) in 2018. The Emergency Appeal will run alongside the Operational Plan for the first half of 2018, after which the EA will be closed.

A. Situation analysis

Description of the disaster

Two years after the beginning of the migration crisis (in 2015), around 45,614 migrants remain on the mainland (32,158) and islands (13,456) of Greece, according to figures as of end of September by UNHCR.3 Compared to previous years, arrivals to Greece in 2017 have significantly decreased.
However, during August and September 2017 there was a significant increase which created a critical situation of overcrowding in the Reception and Identification Centres (RICs) of the islands.
In October 2017, UNHCR and other organisations in Greece have urged action on the islands to ease overcrowding, improve shelter, and stock and distribute appropriate and sufficient aid items. Nearly 5,000 refugees, mostly Syrian or Iraqi families, crossed from Turkey in September - a quarter of all arrivals this year.4 While that is a fraction of the nearly 1 million who arrived in 2015 - due to a European Union statement with Turkey - four of the five island camps are hosting two or three times as many people as they were designed for. In the RIC of Lesvos, Moria, for example, 1,500 people are currently living in makeshift tents with no insulation which raises concerns over the approaching of winter.5 The ‘Financial Plan 2017’ agreed between Greek and EU representatives (DG Home and DG ECHO) in February 2017 established that, with the exception of ECHO’s funding for alternative accommodation spaces and cash transfer programmes, provision of services in the island’s RICs is a responsibility of the Greek government with the EU financial support to the national programmes.

While conditions on the camps in the mainland has improved as compared to the previous year, there continues to be a substantial number of protection challenges in Greece. Some, for example those linked to the lack of security and registration in camps, are longstanding and not able to be resolved in the absence of meaningful action by the Greek government. Other challenges are also emerging as populations transition into urban environments. Populations in camps, particularly in the islands, continue to experience overcrowding and inadequate standards of accommodation, ranging from tents to caravans shared with strangers and without adequate locks and other security mechanisms. There are frequent reports of both actual and apprehended violence from camp based populations, with rumours fuelling more fear, concern and community tensions. There is in general a lack of security in camps, and at many sites entry and egress are not controlled. Camp residents find that people come into the camp from outside completely unimpeded, often for the purpose of drugs, crime, sex work, and other problematic activities. People within camps, particularly women and children, are very afraid to move around at night as they do not know who is in the camp. There has been no MoMP registration in camps for many months (since May). People have continued to arrive in camps, resulting in large unregistered populations. These people cannot have access to cash, so are reliant on savings, generosity from friends and neighbours, or other sources of income in order to meet their basic needs.
The lack of registration also means that people cannot be allocated a caravan officially, which is fuelling an exploitative black market whereby community leaders allocate caravans in return for payments amounting to hundreds of euros.

From January until September (included) 2017 a total of 42,495 applications for international protection have been submitted to the Greek Asylum Service. The main countries of origins of asylum-seekers who have submitted an asylum application in 2017 were from Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.6 In September 2017 the government stated that 10 camps out of the 20 will be closed by the end of the year and that the government will be responsible for managing healthcare related services in the camps from January 2018, further decreasing the role of NGOs in this context. Additionally, the aim is to move all migrants into rental accommodation schemes (by the end of 2018) instead of retaining the ‘camp based accommodation’ strategy. The UNHCR and its partners presented in July 2017 the newly launched Emergency Support to Integration & Accommodation programme (ESTIA)7 of the EU Humanitarian Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Directorate General, which aims to assist refugees and their families rent urban accommodation and provide them with cash assistance.

Therefore, the fact that many people are now (or soon to be accommodated) in urban areas and that the EU Relocation programme ended in September 2017, leaves most people in Greece bound to live in the country, thus the need of integration services throughout the country is crucial. Facilitation of migrants and refugees to access public hospitals or public services to receive health insurance and tax numbers, language courses and access to the local job market are only some of the most important integration actions that need to be further explored and acted on.

Therefore, while the urgency of meeting the basic needs for the new asylum seekers and migrants will continue, the more substantial question will be how to ensure that both basic needs of recognized refugees, as well as their inclusion and integration can be met by the services provided by, or through, the Greek government in the long run. This need will be most pronounced in the urban areas, which now host the majority of the migrant and refugee population.

In general terms, the Emergency Appeal will focus on meeting the basic needs of the migrants, while the Annual Plan will emphasize the longer-term needs of migrants, as well as vulnerable Greeks, and where these two populations meet.
High and long-term unemployment, and risk of poverty continue to pervade the Greek society.