Tomorrow’s Neighbors: Strategies for Temporary Refugee Integration in Athens, Greece | Annalisa Galgano

In 2015, Greece became the gateway for an unprecedented migration influx into Europe. Between 2015 and 2016, over one million migrants, many of whom were refugees, entered Greece via the Mediterranean Sea. After Greece’s northern borders closed and the European Union signed a migration agreement with Turkey in March 2016, an estimated 60,000 asylum seekers found themselves unwillingly confined in Greece, where the asylum application process can last from several months to over a year. This paper discusses the need for temporary refugee integration and seeks to answer the questions: what are the main barriers to refugee integration in Athens, and in what ways can policymakers facilitate the temporary integration of refugees into the city? Data for this study was collected during two rounds of field interviews in Athens in the summer and winter of 2016. Respondents were sampled from three categories: refugees (n=46), direct service providers working for governmental or non-governmental organizations (n=27), and independent volunteers (n=13). These conversations revealed many barriers to refugee integration in Athens, including poor employment prospects, secluded refugee accommodation, and refugees’ general reluctance to stay in Greece. However, several factors that could potentially improve integration prospects were identified, including English and Greek language learning, mentorship from other migrants, and stable accommodation options. This paper concludes with a series of policy recommendations for the municipal government and non-governmental service providers to encourage the temporary integration of refugees in Athens.
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