NGOs welcome resumption of cash assistance for asylum seekers in Greece, call for gaps to be filled urgently — Refugees International

The months-long suspension of cash assistance to asylum seekers since October 2021 has caused significant hardship across Greece. Today, 14 NGOs and civil society organizations welcome the reinstatement of the programme, while warning that many people still remain without assistance.

Since the end of December, asylum seekers in Greece have been receiving “payment cards” as part of an agreement between the Greek government and Catholic Relief Services (CRS). According to the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum, cards have been distributed to all eligible asylum seekers. In January, late payments for October and November were made, with the expectation that disbursements would resume as normal in early March. The new distribution system is based on information from the Greek Asylum Service (GAS) database and all registered asylum seekers are entitled to cash assistance until a final decision on their asylum application is made.

While welcoming the restart of the programme, NGOs expressed serious concern that many asylum seekers still do not have access to this assistance. A significant number of eligible asylum seekers on the islands of Lesbos and Samos have reported to NGOs that they are not receiving money. Some asylum seekers who were eligible for cash assistance between October and December 2021, when payments were discontinued, have since received a positive or negative final decision on their application for international protection and are no longer eligible for such help. As a result, they are no longer considered eligible for a payment card and therefore have not received the refunds that were due to them. In addition, asylum seekers who reside in camps on the mainland and receive food receive a reduced amount of money compared to what they received before the suspension of the program, which could limit their ability to support themselves. to their dietary and other needs as they think better. Asylum seekers in Ritsona camp in central Greece, who were not present when payment cards were initially distributed, were also barred from receiving missed payments from November and December.

NGOs are calling on the Greek government to ensure that all who are eligible receive the full amount of cash assistance, including late payments to those who were eligible between October and December 2021.

context

  • After being transferred from UNHCR to the Greek government from October 2021, the cash assistance distribution program for asylum seekers in Greece came to an abrupt halt;

  • In October 2021, a press release (see here) and an open letter (see here) were issued by NGOs raising the alarm about cash assistance disruptions;

  • On November 18, 2021, the Greek government signed an agreement with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), whereby the organization would implement the cash assistance program (see here);

  • On 25 November, 27 NGOs expressed alarm at the growing consequences of the cessation of cash assistance on asylum seekers (see here).

Signatures

  1. Amnesty International

  2. Arsis – Association for the Social Support of Young People

  3. Changemakers Lab

  4. ECHO100PLUS

  5. Europe must act

  6. Jesuit Refugee Service Greece (JRS Greece)

  7. Solidarity Lesvos

  8. Lighthouse relief

  9. Refugee Legal Assistance (RLS)

  10. Samos Advocacy Collective

  11. Samos Volunteers

  12. save the children

  13. second shaft

  14. I’m still rising

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