Where we work
We work in Greece to support the most vulnerable members of of the refugee community.
Where we work
Project Armonia was founded in Greece in 2019.
For the past two years we have been based on the Aegean island of Samos. Currently, we are in the process of relocating our services to Athens.
The situation in Greece: an ever-evolving crisis
Generally, the numbers of asylum seekers has gone down drastically over the past year, making the situation in Greece appear statistically very different. However, there is still a humanitarian crisis underway, with tens of thousands of people living in insecure and inhumane situations.
The increase in hostility of migration policies; new asylum laws; pushbacks; difficulty for asylum seekers to access vital services; and the completion of new closed-controlled detention housing structures have made life even more impossible for refugees in Greece in new and more complex ways.
These recent changes act as indicators of an increasingly restrictive and deterrent approach to migration in Greece. As such we are committed to operating in a way that fosters community building, social inclusion and restoring dignity.
The new situation on the islands
Over the past year, new closed-controlled facilities have been built on Samos, Kos and Leros with two more planned on Lesvos and Chios. These facilities isolate asylum seekers from local settlements, making it impossible for them to access vital services.
On Samos, in the lead up to the opening of the ‘Zervou MPRIC’, we saw thousands of people being either transferred from the island to mainland Greece or leaving of their own accord (without the official documentation they need) in fear of being detained in what were being widely described as ‘open-air prisons’.
Between the beginning of 2020 and September 2021, there was a 91% decrease in the number of displaced people housed in the official camp and surrounding ‘Jungle’ area from 7,600 in January 2020 to 681 at the end of August 2021 (UNHCR, 2021) on Samos alone.
As such, the number of refugees and asylum seekers present on mainland Greece has increased dramatically.
The situation in Athens: moving with the need
In Athens, most refugees and asylum seekers are left in impossible situations, facing homelessness, insecurity and social exclusion.
Here, many people are left in limbo, without any documentation due to current asylum policies and an inability to access the registration process for asylum. It is becoming increasingly common that people are unable to apply for asylum at all.
Without such registration or documentation, it is impossible for people to access government provided accommodation, healthcare, cash assistance, the labour market and social services including vaccination from COVID-19. These are legal entitlements to all asylum seekers in Europe.
Undocumented asylum seekers are not the only ones who are struggling. For people who have managed to register for the asylum application process, over the past months, a lack of cash assistance services has caused a crisis.
Additionally, if people do finally receive their asylum, they are quickly left to fend for themselves with their benefits and support being suspended after 30 days. With a lack of support and difficulties to access the job market and support oneself, many recognised refugees are forced to leave the country due to an impossibility of living.
Opportunities to integrate are crucial to ensuring people can live and access their basic human rights.
Athens: a 'hunger crisis'
Numerous organisations on the ground have declared the situation in Athens as a ‘hunger crisis’.
The recent policy changes, increased difficulty to register for asylum and delays in cash card assistance described above have made it impossible for people to purchase their own food and leading to widespread food insecurity amongst the refugee and asylum seeking community.
Food is a basic human right. This right is not being met here.
Unable to rely on the official provision of services, many refugees and asylum seekers are turning to NGOs to fulfil their basic needs.
Therefore, to be able to adapt to the evolving needs of the crisis in Greece and the shift of the population, we are currently in the process of relocating our services to the city of Athens.
Media resources to learn more
People risk their lives to make the crossing to Europe, expecting safety. Instead, they are met with dangerous, unsanitary and deplorable conditions. If you want to know more about it, please find below links about the situation on the ground.
- ‘Greek government blamed for hunger crisis in refugee camps’ – The Guardian, 24.01.2022
- ‘Greek asylum policies creating refugee hunger crisis: Aid groups’ – AlJazeera, 03.12.2021
- “All I want is to be free and leave”. Life in the Closed Controlled Access Centre in Samos’ – Europe Must Act, 18.12.2021
- ‘Worse than in Syria’ – Zenith, 07.06.2021
- Samos – a hotspot once more? – Action for Education
- Report on means to address the human rights of pushbacks of migrants – United Nations Human Rights Council, 12.05.2021
- EU sends mixed messages on Turkey as ‘safe’ haven – EU Observer, 09.06.2021
- EU powerhouses ask Greece to do more to take back migrants – Politico, 03.06.2021
- Frontex at Fault: European Border Force complicit in ‘illegal’ pushbacks – Bellningcat, 23.10.2020