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8,300 refugees to be evicted from their homes in Greece – Joint Letter to EU and Greek officials

Thousands of refugees in Greece are about to be evicted from their homes. 8,300 people, many of whom are families with children, are now facing an increased risk of homelessness amidst a global pandemic.

Just one of these people is B. She is a single mother of three children after losing her husband in their country of origin, Iraq. She now has until the end of this month to leave her home, but with nowhere else to go, the family risk ending up on the streets.

Today, alongside 62 organisations, we released a statement to EU and Greek officials, calling on them to urge the Greek government to reconsider. The human rights to dignity, equality, and inclusion must be respected.

The full Joint Letter is below.

 

Joint letter to: 

The Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachis 

The European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson

The European Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas

 

The undersigned organisations express their grave concern about the upcoming exits of at least 8,300 recognised refugees from accommodation and cash assistance schemes in Greece by the end of May 2020. A considerable number of these people, of which a large proportion are families with children, are facing an increased risk of homelessness amidst a global pandemic.

Refugees who have received international protection are being forced to leave apartments for vulnerable people in the Emergency Support to Integration & Accommodation programme (ESTIA), hotels under the Temporary Shelter and Protection programme (FILOXENIA), Reception and Identification Centres (RICs) and refugee camps. Almost simultaneously, financial assistance in the form of EU implemented and supported cash cards will stop. These upcoming measures will affect the livelihood of at least 4,800 people who need to leave ESTIA accommodation, 3,500 people who need to leave RICs and hosting facilities, as well as 1,200 refugees who are self-accommodated and receive cash assistance. 

The Hellenic Integration Support for Beneficiaries of International Protection programme (HELIOS) provides integration courses and contribute towards rental costs up to a maximum of twelve months for those that have to leave accommodation. In practice, out of 8,752 people enrolled in the HELIOS programme, only 1,590 people receive rental subsidies. 82 percent of people who enrolled in HELIOS since 2019 do not yet receive rental subsidies. To benefit from the HELIOS programme beneficiaries need to have a high level of independence and self-sufficiency. Beneficiaries need to provide a tax number, a bank account and procure a rental agreement to receive HELIOS support. As the Greek bureaucratic system is difficult to navigate, doubly so for non-Greek speakers, people face enormous challenges in finding accommodation, paying deposits, and enrolling in HELIOS. Other than the HELIOS programme which is only available to recognised refugees, apart from a few fragmented municipal and NGO initiatives there is no alternative social support, especially at the reception stage, which in Greece can last up to three years. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in Greece but restrictions on movement and measures to halt the spread of COVID-19 have disproportionately affected the population that now needs to leave accommodation. Lockdown has also meant that people have had no possibility to search for alternative housing, find employment or arrange the necessary requirements to enter the HELIOS programme. Even now that restrictions are slowly being lifted throughout the whole of Greece, life is far from returning to normal, especially for those in Reception and Identification Centres on the Aegean islands and the hosting facilities Ritsona, Malakasa and Koutsohero where restrictions on movement are extended until 7 June 2020. 

At least 8,300 people need to leave their accommodation by the end of May and only a small percentage are provided with integration support (including rental subsidies) through the HELIOS programme. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that people are almost simultaneously losing cash assistance from the cash card assistance programme. Although both ESTIA and HELIOS programmes are funded by DG HOME and implemented by the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum, there is no linkage between them to ease the transition from one to the other. As a result, a considerable number of vulnerable people will be left without any support or prospect of integration and will have to face a severely increased risk of becoming homeless. Bureaucratic obstacles have meant that many of these people do not have a tax number or a bank account, both necessary to get a job or rent an apartment. Indeed, according to UNHCR, only 7 percent of recognised refugees in the ESTIA programme have a bank account and 75 percent have a tax number. To make matters worse, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it impossible for people to find employment, alternative housing or arrange documentation for the HELIOS integration programme. 

Therefore, we urgently request you to ensure that: 

  • The deadline of exits from ESTIA, FILOXENIA, RICs and refugee camps are extended beyond the end of May so that people have adequate time to find alternative accommodation, search for employment and fully enrol in the HELIOS integration programme after being under restrictive measures since 13 March 2020. No one should face the risk of homelessness amid an ongoing global pandemic. 
  • The monthly financial support under the EU implemented (and supported) cash card assistance programme is extended for those who need to exit accommodation and face the risk of homelessness. 
  • Elderly people, people with serious medical problems and single parents, are included in the extension of exits from accomodation in addition to those already deemed extremely vulnerable such as women in the last terms of their pregnancy and women with high-risk pregnancies. 
  • A bridge is created between ESTIA and other reception accommodation to the HELIOS program which also includes self-accommodated people. Currently self-accommodated people cannot enrol in the HELIOS programme but still need integration support and financial assistance after receiving international protective status. 
  • Bureaucratic barriers are removed so that asylum seekers have access to all the legal documents they are entitled to, such as a social security number, a  tax number, and a bank account, so that people are able to seek employment and accommodation, to guarantee the right to housing.
  • A coherent and long term strategy on integration and housing is created as recent legislation requires newly recognised refugees to leave accommodation within 30 days instead of six months, significantly reducing the time for people to prepare themselves.


We remain at your disposal for more information.

Signed by,

A Drop in the Ocean

Action for Education

Action for Women

ANTIGONE – Information and Documentation Centre on Racism, Ecology, Peace and Non Violence

ARSIS – Association for the Social Support of Youth

Bridge2

CHEERing: Center for Health Equity, Education and Research International Group

Cribs International

Danish Refugee Council (DRC)

DIOTIMA Centre

ECHO100PLUS

Ecological Movement of Thessaloniki

Equal Rights Beyond Borders

Fair Planet

FENIX Humanitarian Legal Aid

foodKIND

Free Movement Skateboarding UK 

Glocal Roots

Greek Helsinki Monitor

Greek Housing Network

Hellenic League for Human Rights

Help Refugees / Choose Love 

HIAS Greece – HIAS Ελλάδος 

Higher Incubator Giving Growth and Sustainability-HIGGS

Humanity Now / Direct Refugee Relief USA

HumanRights360

Humans for Humans

I AM YOU

International Group

Intereuropean Human Aid Association

International Rescue Committee (IRC)

INTERSOS Hellas

INTERSOS Organizzazione Umanitaria

InterVolve

Jesuit Refugee Service Greece (JRS Greece)

Legal Centre Lesvos

Lighthouse Relief (LHR)

Melissa: Network of Migrant Women in Greece

MIGREUROP

Migreurop

Mobile Info Team

Network for Children’s Rights – Δίκτυο για τα Δικαιώματα του Παιδιού

Northern Lights Aid

Omnes

One Happy Family

Pampiraiki Support Initiative for Refugees & Migrants

Project Armonia

Project Elea

ReFOCUS Media Labs

Refugee Legal Support (RLS)

Refugee Trauma Initiative

Refugee Youth Service

Samos Volunteers

ShowerPower Foundation

SolidarityNow

Still I Rise

Symbiosis-School of political studies in Greece, Council of Europe Network of Schools

Terre des hommes Hellas

Thalassa of Solidarity

The Lava Project

Velos Youth 

Verein FAIR.

Wave – Thessaloniki

Yoga and Sport For Refugees

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Photo: Ayhan Mehmet/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

Families demonstrate in Athens against the upcoming evictions from their homes.

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Choose Art | Give Light to Refugees – fundraising art auction launches 8th June

For the month of June, art patrons, curators, gallerists and art lovers alike are invited to attend “Choose Art | Give Light to Refugees”, an online exhibition and auction, raising funds for our COVID-19 emergency appeal.

Launching on Monday 8th June and spanning three weeks, the online exhibition aims to raise funds for the refugees affected by the COVID-19 crisis through the love of art. Choose Art | Give Light to Refugees showcases a wide spectrum of art from 150 well- established and emerging artists from all corners of the globe via auction website Galabid.

With internationally renowned artists including Emmanuelle Bousquet (France), Anita Taylor (UK), Ian Howard (Australia), Guy Warren (Australia), Belinda Fox (Netherlands) and Luke Sciberras (Australia), the exhibiting artists all bring a unique perspective for this global cause. Open until Friday 29th June, the general public are invited to attend the online exhibition, bid in the auction.

We want to extend our thanks to Nicky Ginsberg and all the other incredible organisers and the brilliant, generous artists. We continue to be amazed by the ways people are finding to support their fellow humans in this strange and challenging time.

From Monday 8th June, access the auction here.

Guy WarrenGuy Warren | The coming of the boatman Etching No 14/15 53 x 67 cm

Nicole Kelly

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nicole Kelly | Saint Sixte 2019 Oil in tin 13 x 12 x 6.5cm Courtesy of Arthouse Gallery, Sydney

Barbara WalkerBarbara Walker | Tableau I 2016 Graphite on paper and digital print 70.5 x 54 cm

Header image by Hyejin Shin | Cosmic Relation 2019 Ink and acrylic gouache on Korean paper 60×200 cm 

 

 

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Press Release – Help Refugees response to announcement that Section 67 ‘Dubs Amendment’ now ended 

Today the government has confirmed in the newly released Immigration Statistics that, after four years, the Section 67 ‘Dubs’ scheme has ended. Through this route, 480 unaccompanied children living in Europe have been brought to safety in the United Kingdom.

Where it started: the Calais Jungle camp

Whilst working in the Calais Jungle camp, five years ago, we were supporting hundreds of young children travelling without their families, some as young as six years old. We campaigned alongside Alf Dubs and organisations such as Safe Passage for an amendment to the Immigration Act that would allow the UK to offer sanctuary to unaccompanied minors, as Britain had done in WW2. Alf Dubs himself found sanctuary in the UK in this way when he was 6 years old hence the name the Dubs Amendment. Once it was passed as law, those of us working on the ground could see the government was taking no action to bring these children to safety. Help Refugees, along with our incredible supporters, launched a strategic litigation against the government in October 2016 to ensure they took action. During the week of the Calais Jungle camp evictions, starting on October 16th 2016, the UK government facilitated the legal transfer of 280 children. 

Refugees Welcome march

Help Refugees strategic litigation

What came next is nearly four years of legal challenges and campaigning to pressure the UK government to uphold its promise to provide refuge for children still living in dire conditions across Europe, and fill the remaining 200 spaces available. With a legal battle that has spanned over three years, it would be a stretch to call the Dubs scheme a ‘success’.

Over 215,000 unaccompanied children have applied for asylum in the European Union (EU) since 2015. The United Kingdom has welcomed a tiny number of these children. And very few have reached our shores through safe and legal routes of passage. An incomprehensibly slow, inefficient and unfair asylum system has left thousands of children living in limbo. In the time it’s taken for the Home Office to process the filling of the 480 spaces to which it committed, hundreds more children have gone missing. We have campaigned to hold the government to account at every step of the process and will continue to do so. 

The situation in 2020

Today, there are still over 6000 unaccompanied children living in makeshift refugee camps across Europe. With our amazing partners, we support these children with access to lawyers/rights, clothing, food, shelter and education. With conditions in Calais the worst they’ve ever been and thousands of children trapped on the Aegean islands in Greece, we must work harder than ever to ensure these children can find safety. Without safe and legal routes, children are pushed into the hands of smugglers and traffickers.

A huge thank you to our supporters

However amidst the struggles of the last five years we have also seen just how much people care. Local authorities, foster families, social workers and volunteers; Britain has shown its immense capacity to choose love. We would not have been able to achieve any of this work without you. Our supporters have campaigned tirelessly for the rights of unaccompanied refugee children. We would also like to especially thank our dear friend Lord Alf Dubs, without whom none of this work would have been possible. Alf has campaigned day and night to ensure that these 480 children have the right to a safe future in the UK.

“I am pleased by the news today that the children we have been campaigning for so hard to bring to safety are now here in Britain. But I have never accepted the cap at 480 places. We know that local authorities have capacity to take many more children. And we know that there are thousands of children sleeping outside tonight in refugee camps across Europe. There is a huge amount more work to be done to bring unaccompanied children to safety and to welcome them across Britain as we know has always been possible.”Lord Alf Dubs

For further information about our legal challenge please see here.

For more information/media comments please contact: 

Josie Naughton, CEO, Help Refugees

josie@helprefugees.org / Mobile – +44 7944559838

Maddy Allen, Advocacy Manager, Help Refugees  

maddy@helprefugees.org / Mobile – +44 7757722718 

 

Dubs Judicial Review Stella Creasy Juliet Stevenson

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‘Choose our NHS’ and ‘Choose our Carers’

We are all about supporting ordinary people doing extraordinary things, so when we saw the UK’s heroic NHS and care workers risking their lives to COVID-19 to help others, we knew we had to help. 

Celebrities wearing Choose our NHS and Choose our Carers

 

The ‘Choose our NHS’ and ‘Choose our Carers’ organic cotton tees, designed in collaboration with Katherine Hamnett, are our way of showing love to them. 100% of net profits go to NHS Charities Together and the Care Workers Charity and are matched by ASOS.

Celebrities wearing Choose our NHS and Choose our Carers

 

Launched on 1 May, we were honoured that so many public figures got behind the campaign and sent us pictures of themselves wearing the tees to show their support.

 

 

GET YOURS NOW

FAQs

  • 100% of net profits per adult t-shirt will be donated and matched by ASOS. This equates to around £8.20 (with more details available on ASOS’ website).
  • All profits of Choose Our NHS t-shirts will be donated to NHS Charities Together
  • All profits of Choose Our Carers t-shirts will be donated to The Care Workers Charity
  • Adult blank garments are sourced & produced through Tropics Knits, part of the CIEL group. It is one of ASOS’ longest-standing partners which supplies a large portion of ASOS Design jersey & leisure product
  • Tropics, whilst not manufacturing garments during the lockdown, currently has a small workforce producing masks & PPE for COVID-19 at all three of its sites. See: mymask.mu
  • Adult garments are made in Mauritius & Madagascar using organic cotton grown in India and are fully Gots certified.
  • Printing of adult garments is at Meesha Graphics in U.K. ASOS has worked with Meesha for 8 years. All inks we use are non-hazardous & are fully certified using OEKOTEX Standard 100.
  • Meesha is SMETA accredited
  • You can read about how ASOS is protecting its UK warehouse staff here.
  • You can find out how ASOS is working with its suppliers here.
  • You can read ASOS’ Modern Slavery Statement here

#chooseourNHS #chooseourcarers

 

 

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