Supporting efforts in Greece on asylum and migration
In recent years, Greece has become one of the gateways to Europe for hundreds of thousands of people seeking international protection or simply a better way of life. Reflecting this, a key focus for the EEA Grants in Greece in the coming years will be to support the country’s efforts to handle this influx of asylum seekers and migrants.
An ‘asylum and immigration fund’ under the new grants scheme was formally launched at an event held in Athens on 1-2 December. Bringing together representatives from both the Greek and Norwegian governments, international organisations, NGOs and specialists in asylum issues, the kick-off seminar officially launched the programme of cooperation between Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway and Greek public entities and organisations.
Tackling asylum and immigration issues
Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland have set aside €63.4 million to Greece for 2009-2014 funding period. Almost one-third (€20.9 million) is to be dedicated to tackling asylum and migration issues. The grants will be channelled through two different sub-programmes, both of which will be carried out in close cooperation with the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI).
The grants will contribute to ensuring a smooth-functioning national migration management system in Greece that safeguards the right to seek asylum and gives special attention to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Two pre-defined projects have been established. Involving the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), these projects will address urgent needs for the reception and screening of new arrivals and the accommodation of vulnerable groups. They will also provide assistance for voluntary returns.
Visit to the Greek-Turkish Evros border region
Prior to the launch event, a delegation consisting of representatives from the Norwegian Embassy in Athens, the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration, and the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Police visited the border region of Evros. According to figures from the Greek Ministry of Citizen Protection, 40 000 of the 128 000 illegal immigrants who entered Greece in the past year, crossed at the Evros border. The delegation visited the area to get an idea of the challenges facing authorities at the Turkish border at first-hand. As part of the trip, they visited the Filakio detention centre and the land border with Turkey.
Photo credit: Visit to the Filakio detention centre - Christian Halvorsen / NMFA