Greek gov’t to take over from UNHCR responsibility for cash aid to asylum seekers

The Greek government will take over the management of the cash assistance programme for asylum seekers in Greece as of October 1, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Thursday.

Since the Spring of 2017, cash assistance has been provided to more than 200,000 vulnerable asylum seekers in Greece through the European Union and in compliance with the EU Reception Conditions Directive, UNHCR said in a statement.

The initiative was part of the Emergency Support to Integration and Accommodation (ESTIA) programme, which began in 2018 and included both an accommodation and a cash assistance component. ESTIA’s accomodation aspect was handed over to Greece in 2020, and the UNHCR worked with Greece for the full transition of the program after managing it for four years.

“Cash assistance reinforces the dignity of those who have been forced to flee, enabling them to meet their basic needs and to decide for themselves how they do so,” said Mireille Girard, UNHCR Representative in Greece. “It is important that all asylum seekers in need of support continue to receive it without interruption and that they are informed about the new programme during this transition,” added Girard.

On its side, the Migration & Asylum Ministry said in a statement that the transition “is a significant step and is part of the government’s plan for assuming full control of the migration issue.” It also thanked UNHCR for its collaboration and the European Commission for its funding of the program.

As the ministry has already stated, the cash assistance is only provided to asylum seekers who live in the ministry’s reception centers or in facilities operated by international organizations, public legal entities, regional administration agencies and registered nonprofits, and who are not working or are not earning adequte living funds.

There will be no change in the amount from that provided by the UNHCR and it will be based on the number of family members as well as on whether their residence includes meals.