SolidarityNow continues to focus its actions on integration programs
Since 2016, SolidarityNow has been one of the key partners of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Greece. The partnership concerned the effective implementation of the *ESTIA program, with the aim of providing housing and a range of supporting services to asylum seekers in Attica, in the wider area of Thessaloniki and Ioannina in Northern Greece.
Since April 2016 and up to today, the organization has managed to support and empower more than 10,000 asylum seekers and refugees through the program. Many of the beneficiaries belonged to vulnerable social groups such as single-parent families, people with serious medical problems, people with disabilities, victims of torture, etc. During the 5 years of implementation, the program included different types of structures such as: housing in independent apartments, buildings, but also hostels and a specialized program for LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees. It is worth to be mentioned that through the ESTIA program, SolidarityNow has also supported more than 3,500 children.
The organization’s accommodation program has achieved its goal: to provide and ensure vulnerable applicants for international protection and refugees, not only decent living conditions in a safe environment but also access to high quality supporting services (interpretation, escorts to health and medical structures, support from experienced groups of social workers, psychologists and lawyers, educational activities, enrollment of children in public schools, etc.). The long-standing and long-term goal of Solidarity Now was – and remains – to ensure the people’s smooth integration and peaceful coexistence into the Greek society.
At the same time, in a period of severe economic recession, SolidarityNow along with other organizations and the authorities, taking into account the need to maintain social stability and cohesion and strengthen the acceptance and integration of the population, supported the local economy, mainly through renting apartments in urban centers. Also, many of the program’s beneficiaries were supported by our teams and made the next step; they learned Greek and managed to find a job, thus support their families, and integrate into Greek society and reality.
The recent undertaking of the program titled ESTIA II, now focused merely on housing, by the government and the Ministry of Migration and Asylum, is the reasonable next step, for the overall management of the refugee issue in the country. We, at SolidarityNow, express our willingness to support the program’s smooth transition processes in order to ensure, in every possible way, the unimpeded support of asylum seekers and refugees. At the same time, we express our concern for the maintenance of the services’ quality in the context of the new program based on its new terms.
At SolidarityNow, our core actions include the continuous efforts to improve, through our programs, the living conditions of the people we support. Facing the new challenges regarding refugees and migrants in the country, we continue our work focusing on the integration of vulnerable population groups: with training programs – language support -, supporting services aimed at connecting beneficiaries with the labor market, social interventions at neighborhoods related to the needs of the local community and the economy, concern and care of unaccompanied children. Programs that cover the entire arc that begins with addressing basic needs, to creating opportunities for social inclusion, building on people’s self-reliance and empowerment.
* ESTIA, the Emergency Support to Integration and Accommodation program, is implemented by UNHCR and funded by the Asylum, Migration, and Integration Fund of the European Union.