Over 10,000 Migrants in Greece Voluntarily Returned Home in Last 20 Months
Athens – Today (04/05) IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reported that more than 10,000 migrants returned voluntarily and safely to their home countries from Greece between June 2016 and April 2018, with nearly 2,500 eligible migrants receiving targeted reintegration support.
IOM assisted with a total 10,576 voluntary returns to 84 countries and territories over the 20-month period, through an EU and Greece-funded Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme.
Among the returnees, 8,375 were men, 2,125 were women, and special assistance was provided to 77 unaccompanied migrant children, helping them to reunite with their families.
Five countries’ citizens make up more than 80 per cent of the returnees: from Pakistan (3,105), Iraq (1,980), Afghanistan (1,096), Georgia (1,044) and Algeria (986).
As a first step prior to departure and during the registration procedure, specialized AVRR counsellors, together with IOM interpreters, continuously assess potential beneficiaries’ sincere will to return home, inform them of their legal options in Greece, and discuss specific issues, such as potential medical needs that may require enhanced support prior to and after return.
“The months went by and I started thinking of my family and friends in Iran through the hardships I faced in Greece,” said Nozary Sarim, who decided to return to Iran after five months in Greece. “I was missing them a lot. I was already aware of IOM’s programme and I made the decision to return to my country.”
“The thought of being back again with my family and friends and a new beginning in Iran made me really happy. But I will never forget the friends I made here,” he added.
Additional counselling also takes place to brief migrants on the situation in their country of origin, and to determine their needs in terms of re-establishing themselves in their communities. A tailor-made plan is then drawn up with the migrant, taking into account their needs, country specificities, and the needs of the community.
With the support of social workers, psychologists and cultural mediators, IOM conducted 4,624 counselling interviews with beneficiaries eligible for reintegration support.
Some 2,487 eligible returnees received in-kind reintegration assistance, and are implementing personalized reintegration plans in their countries of origin. The majority of the beneficiaries (2,261), managed to open small businesses which can contribute to the economic and social sustainability of their communities.
Eligible migrants are also entitled to medical assistance, education grants, temporary accommodation, vocational assistance, material assistance and job placement according to their needs.
Fadil, from Morocco, reopened his butcher shop in Marrakech through the reintegration assistance he received.
“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 explained. “I also got a sanitary license from the commune. My business is running well as there are no similar shops in the area.”
An Open Centre for migrants registered for assisted voluntary return and reintegration (OCAVRR) is also established near the center of Athens to provide shelter and pre-departure care to vulnerable migrants in Greece who have registered for the AVRR programme and have no place to stay until their departure. The purpose of the Open Centre is to ensure that migrants in vulnerable situations are enabled to prepare their return in safe conditions.
The migrants staying at the Open Centre are vulnerable migrants, pregnant women, single parent families, unaccompanied migrant children, migrants with medical needs and elderly migrants. During the reporting period, the centre hosted 2,457 beneficiaries, 2,205 of whom returned voluntarily to their home country.
The AVRR project is oriented toward undocumented third country nationals who no longer want to stay in Greece, asylum seekers who have withdrawn their applications for international protection, and asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected.
IOM’s return and reintegration assistance is provided under the framework of the EU and Greek government supported programme Implementation of Assisted Voluntary Return including Reintegration Measures (AVRR) funded by the EU’s Asylum Migration and Integration Fund and by national funds.
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