Migration officials visit refugee housing in Livadia, Ritsona in central Greece

European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos on Thursday visited apartments provided for refugees in Livadia, in Viotia, and the hotspot of Ritsona, east of Thebes.

The commissioner was accompanied by Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas, Livadia Mayor Yiota Poulou and Philippe Leclerc, representative of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Greece.

In statements during the visits, Avramopoulos reiterated the European Commission’s steadfast support of Greece in the refugee issue with technical and funding support, and praised mayors for “their boldness and sensitivity in facing down populism and xenophobia” to help refugees integrate in local communities.

Referring to the emergency resettlement program for refugees which ended on March 31, the commissioner said that a total of 21,999 individuals were housed. These included 546 unaccompanied minors.

Minister Vitsas said that the Asylum Service will be staffed with more personnel. “We hope to have 1,000 people at the Asylum Service by 2019,” he said, adding that although the refugee issue raises humanitarian obligations, it also needs European central management. Livadia is a pilot program that can inspire other local communities to work with UNHCR and provide similar programs, he noted.

Vitsas also announced that a “national plan for refugee integration will be turned over to public consultation shortly.”