Representatives of migrants and refugees are expressing concern as thousands currently living in apartments and reception centers in mainland Greece will as of next year have to support themselves.
Officials say 27,757 people have been awarded refugee status since 2015, while another 52,083 applications are still pending. These people will be entitled to the same state assistance as low-income individuals, meaning welfare and housing and heating benefits.
The United Nations Refugee Agency’s European Union-funded ESTIA program has housed 22,000 people in apartments. Although the scheme was designed for people in the process of applying for asylum, it hosts 4,500 people who merit refugee status. They are allowed to stay lest they end up in the street. “We do not wish to create a social problem,” a Migration Ministry official told Kathimerini.
Optimism among refugees is naturally in short supply given Greece’s crisis-hit labor market.
“Even Greeks can’t find work, how can these people be expected to get a job when they don’t even speak the language,” said the vice president of the Afghan community, who works in Greek hospitals as an interpreter. “We need to find a solution… or every street of this city will be filled with people.”