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2014 UNHCR regional operations profile - Northern, Western, Central and Southern Europe

| Overview |

Working environment

The 36 countries in this subregion have long traditions of refugee protection, strong legal frameworks and, for the majority of them, functioning national asylum systems. Nevertheless, different legal traditions and asylum and migration experiences shape the protection landscape of each country. Croatia, which became the 28th member-State of the European Union in July 2013, is the newest participant in the Common European Asylum System (CEAS).

The most significant development in 2013 was the adoption of amended European Union legislation on asylum and the reception of asylum-seekers. The recast statutes, which will require extensive transposition at the national level in 2014, strengthen protection standards in the region. However, discrepancies in implementation persist, leading to protection gaps in some countries and posing challenges to the functioning of the CEAS. These include challenges in the application of the Dublin III Regulation, which determines which Member State is responsible for examining an asylum application.

The trend of rising numbers of asylum applications in the region in 2011 and 2012 continued in the first half of 2013. The crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria), in particular, has increased demand for asylum throughout the region. Germany and Sweden were the most affected, with the two countries receiving more than 50 per cent of Syrian applications.

Germany was the recipient of the largest number of asylum applications overall in the region in 2013, followed by France and Sweden.

While Syrians now form the second-largest group of applicants, the biggest and still increasing group comprises people from the Russian Federation. Afghans and Serbian asylum-seekers are the third- and fourth-largest groups, respectively. Also among those seeking asylum each year are stateless people. There are currently an estimated 436,000 stateless people in the region.

Ensuring access to asylum for refugees, including at sea or land borders, remains a challenge. UNHCR calls on States to fulfil their international protection obligations when faced with irregular migration. There is little distinction in public debate between irregular migrants and refugees, and the economic crisis has also had a negative impact on the public perception of migrants. It has reduced refugees' chances of finding jobs and limited the availability of resources to build or strengthen asylum and protection systems. In this difficult operational environment, UNHCR must continue to engage governments and the institutions of the European Union to sustain access to asylum; improve the quality of asylum adjudication; promote fair and efficient asylum systems; develop and clarify legal standards; and find durable solutions, including integration, for refugees and stateless people.

| Response |


  • UNHCR will help governments and other partners to build and maintain fair and efficient asylum and protection systems.

  • To safeguard asylum space in the broader migration context, UNHCR will work to ensure that border management is more protection-sensitive. It will make every effort to see detention is only utilized as a last resort. It will also advocate for reception conditions - including for asylum-seekers with special needs, such as unaccompanied and separated children and victims of trafficking or trauma - that meet minimum international standards.

  • UNHCR will advocate for more resettlement places and enhanced integration capacity in resettlement countries, as well as the implementation of local-integration projects for the approximately 1.6 million refugees in the region.

  • To prevent and resolve situations of statelessness, the Office will continue to urge States to accede to the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions and improve mechanisms to identify stateless people.

  • UNHCR will support European Union policy-making processes related to people of concern and mobilize political and financial support in the region for its work worldwide.


The economic difficulties being felt throughout the region have had an impact on the ability and readiness of many countries to strengthen protection, while budgetary restrictions have affected the civil-society organizations that provide services and support to asylum-seekers and refugees. Xenophobia and related intolerance have led to incidents of discrimination and violence in some countries. Coupled with conflicts in neighbouring countries and heightened sensitivities to new influxes of asylum-seekers these concerns have, at times, led to States giving precedence to curbing irregular movement, including through tighter border control and detention and penalization for illegal entry, over their international protection obligations.

| Implementation |


UNHCR will achieve its objectives in the subregion through a multi-faceted strategy of standard-setting, advocacy and partnerships. Comments on legislation, comparative analyses and judicial engagement will allow UNHCR to contribute to the setting of legal standards at the national and regional levels. Monitoring and reporting on national practices, and comparison through multi-country studies, will facilitate gap analysis and identification of good practice. UNHCR will engage in dialogue with all levels of government and regional institutions; hold consultations with refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people; and collaborate with civil society and new stakeholders. Country operations will build on UNHCR's Age, Gender and Diversity commitments and encourage meaningful participation of refugees in the planning and implementation of government programmes.

Safeguard asylum space in the broader migration context

UNHCR's operations in the subregion work to ensure that arrivals with protection needs are referred to the appropriate authorities. With the current scale of humanitarian crises, more arrivals in the subregion can be expected. A particular focus will be on people arriving by sea. By monitoring admission practices and building the capacityof immigrationandcoastguard officials, UNHCR will aim to avert the riskof refoulement.Border-monitoring projects will also continue in the three Baltic States, Italy and Spain as well as in Central Europe. UNHCR will organize the third International Summer School on refugee law for border guards in France in addition to cross-border cooperation meetings and events. UNHCR will work with Belgium to map practices related to the referral of victims of trafficking, and with specialized counterparts in Spain to identify trafficking victims at entry points.

Adequate reception conditions and procedures that are capable of responding to the specific needs of asylum-seekers are essential components of a quality asylum system. UNHCR will continue to work to ensure dignified reception standards, including the use of detention only as a measure of last resort.

In Cyprus and Portugal, UNHCR will provide direct support to asylum-seekers with special needs. In Malta the office will work with the Government to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of detention. Alternatives to detention will be promoted more widely, including in Belgium and all countries under the purview of the Dublin Regulation. In the United Kingdom, UNHCR will advocate for a more protection-focused approach taking account of their special needs to asylum-seekers in detention whose applications are being fast-tracked. In Finland, the findings of the 2013 Age, Gender and Diversity consultations will be implemented and participatory approaches relating to the reception system will be promoted throughout the Nordic and Baltic countries.

The specific needs of some asylum-seekers, particularly unaccompanied and separated children, will be given priority by UNHCR throughout the region. The best interest of each child will remain the primary consideration in all decisions affecting him or her, including those taken within the context of the Dublin Regulation. A UNHCR-supported drop-in centre in Patras, Greece, will be dedicated to assisting unaccompanied children who are in transit and are facing serious protection risks.

UNHCR offices in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom will follow up on the Response to Vulnerability project. Standard operating procedures will be instituted in reception centres to respond to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

Build and maintain effective asylum and protection systems

UNHCR has long sought to improve the quality of adjudication by first-instance asylum bodies in the region, and will continue to work with governments to implement quality audit mechanisms. A special emphasis will be placed on child-friendly asylum procedures, including mechanisms to determine the best interest of the child. UNHCR will advocate for more awareness of the links between trafficking and asylum, protection needs related to female genital mutilation, and the use of safe third-country or safe country of asylum concepts.

In 2013 UNHCR published Beyond Proof, a comprehensive analysis of credibility assessment in the European Union asylum system. A follow-up study on the credibility assessment in child asylum cases will be completed in 2014.

UNHCR will continue to complement the efforts of the European Asylum Support Office to improve practical cooperation among EU Member States in the building of asylum systems and improve the quality of country-of-origin information. Interpreters will be trained in Austria, the Czech Republic and other countries. UNHCR will create networks of legal practitioners and encourage improvements in legal aid, particularly in Spain and Austria. In Albania, UNHCR will provide direct legal assistance to asylum-seekers.

In 2014, UNHCR will publish a manual on case law from regional courts in Europe. It will continue to support the Conference of Refugee Law Judges in Germany and the yearly Summer School for Border Guards in Strasbourg. UNHCR will participate in the asylum adjudication process in Spain, France and Italy. In Greece, UNHCR will provide direct operational support to the authorities engaged in the reform of the asylum procedure.

To aid the transposition of the newly adopted legal standards of the CEAS, UNHCR will comment on law and share legal analysis with stakeholders at the national level, in addition to advocating for full implementation of existing legal standards. Judicial engagement and court interventions will permit UNHCR to ensure the correct application of relevant laws in refugee cases. To this end, and particularly with the operation of the Dublin Regulation in mind, UNHCR's operations will continue to make recommendations to national asylum authorities.

Increase the number of resettlement places and enhance reception and integration capacity in resettlement countries, in addition to improving local integration prospects for some 1.6 million refugees in the region

21 of the 36 countries in the subregion contribute to UNHCR's global resettlement efforts, 16 of them by operating an annual resettlement programme. Despite this, the number of resettlement places in the region is limited compared with the global number of resettlement places, with quotas and reception and integration capacity varying widely among countries. UNHCR will work to secure larger resettlement quotas and strengthen national capacities for reception and integration through the joint UNHCR-IOM-ICMC Emergency Resettlement Project, which is funded by the European Union. The project promotes good practice through its dedicated website and is helping build a resettlement practitioners' network.

Special attention will be devoted to resettlement and humanitarian admission of Syrian refugees in 2014. UNHCR will continue to manage the emergency transit centres in Timisoara (Romania) and Humenne (Slovakia). The centres host refugees eligible for resettlement who are in urgent need of evacuation to a safe place where their resettlement procedures can be finalized.

The local integration of refugees and others with protection status is central to effective asylum systems. UNHCR's operations will raise awareness of the particular challenges to integration faced by refugees, as highlighted in the research carried out in selected countries in 2013 under the EU-funded Refugee Integration: Capacity and Evaluation project. The integration evaluation tool, the use of which was piloted in Central Europe, will help governments to assess the quality of their integration programmes and identify gaps.

To aid integration, UNHCR will promote good practices in relation to labour market integration, housing and the building of social and professional networks. Awareness campaigns will highlight the particular problems of young people.

Prevent and resolve situations of statelessness

UNHCR will use the opportunity provided by the 60th anniversary of the 1954 Statelessness Convention in 2014 to advocate for accession to the Statelessness Conventions in the 16 countries of the region that have yet to sign. Studies have been undertaken in 12 countries and in particular in Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom in order to fully assess the scope of statelessness issues and gaps in the protection of stateless people. The absence of statelessness determination procedures in most countries has been identified as one particular gap that needs to be filled. In countries where procedures are in place, such as France, Hungary, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, UNHCR will work with the authorities to improve quality of decision making. Related efforts will emphasize reform of nationality law, birth registration and the facilitation of naturalization. Cooperation with the European Network on Statelessness in advocacy and training initiatives in the region will continue.

Strengthen UNHCR's external relations and mobilize support for the work of UNHCR worldwide

UNHCR's operations in the subregion play an important role in raising awareness of its work and the needs of refugees worldwide. Within Europe, attitudes towards people of concern to the organization are often linked to national debates about migration, both legal and illegal.

In times of economic crisis, high unemployment and conflict in neighbouring regions, the growing number of refugees and migrants arriving in the region have to overcome fearful attitudes among locals.Tocounterthistrend,UNHCR works closely with civil-society organizations and others involved in refugee protection. It is represented at public events, seminars and conferences, and engages with the media to raise awareness of refugee needs. Innovative approaches include high-visibility campaigns using public spaces and transport. Particular attention is paid to improving communication through social media. Where xenophobia and racism have led to violence against asylum-seekers and refugees, UNHCR will address the problem with the help of local partners.

| Financial information |

Over the last four years, UNHCR's financial requirements in the subregion have increased slightly. In 2014, the financial requirements are set at USD 62.5 million, a slight increase from the revised 2013 budget of USD 60.2 million, mainly due to the reinforcement of the Office's responsibilities in covering the Nordic and Baltic countries. Approximately 94 per cent of the 2014 budget is allocated to refugees and asylum-seekers, with the remaining 6 per cent allocated to the stateless programme.

UNHCR budgets for the Northern, Western, Central and Southern Europe (USD)
Operation 2013
Revised budget
(as of 30 June 2013)
2014 2015
Total 60,178,391 58,795,712 3,680,391 62,476,103 60,218,250
Belgium Regional Office 14,553,295 12,505,096 1,504,165 14,009,261 14,009,261
Hungary Regional Office 11,294,317 11,724,569 1,004,580 12,729,149 12,729,149
Italy Regional Office 21,728,884 22,035,168 191,910 22,227,078 19,969,225
Spain 1,459,619 1,863,715 43,808 1,907,522 1,907,522
Sweden Regional Office 3,374,032 4,405,546 935,927 5,341,473 5,341,473
Regional activities 7,768,243 6,261,619 0 6,261,619 6,261,619

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2014-2105

UNHCR contact information

The UNHCR Office in Greece
Style of Address The UNHCR Head of National Office in Greece
Street Address 12, Tagiapiera Street, GR11525 Athens, Greece
Mailing Address 12, Tagiapiera Street, GR11525 Athens, Greece
Telephone 30 210 672 6462
Facsimile 30 210 672 6417
Time Zone GMT + 2
Working Hours
Monday:8:00 - 16:30
Tuesday:8:00 - 16:30
Wednesday:8:00 - 16:30
Thursday:8:00 - 16:30
Public Holidays 01 January 2014, New Year's Day
06 January 2014, Epiphnay Day
03 March 2014, Clean Monday
18 April 2014, Good Friday
21 April 2014, Easter monday
29 July 2014, Eid Al-Fitr
06 October 2014, Eid Al-Adha (observed)
28 October 2014, Greek National Day
25 December 2014, Christmas Day
26 December 2014, Second day of christmas



UNHCR contact information

Statistical Snapshot*
* As at January 2014
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence. In the absence of Government estimates, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in most industrialized countries based on 10 years of asylum-seekers recognition.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation whose status has not yet been verified.
  3. Persons whose application for asylum or refugee status is pending at any stage in the procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013. Source: Country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance. It also includes persons who are in an IDP-like situation.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013.
  7. Refers to persons under UNHCR's statelessness mandate.
  8. Persons of concern to UNHCR not included in the previous columns but to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance.
  9. The category of people in a refugee-like situation is descriptive in nature and includes groups of people who are outside their country of origin and who face protection risks similar to those of refugees, but for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Greece [1]
Refugees [2] 3,485
Asylum Seekers [3] 49,830
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Stateless Persons [7] 178
Various [8] 19,534
Total Population of Concern 73,027
Originating from Greece [1]
Refugees [2] 92
Asylum Seekers [3] 106
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 198
Government Contributions to UNHCR
Contributions since 2000
More info 68,027
As at 2 July 2014
2013 115,445
More info 1,436,911
Total contribution in USD: 1,436,911 [rank: 29]
Total contribution in currency: 1,153,255 (EUR)
Donor ranking per GDP: 36
Donor ranking per capita: 31
More info 2,130,540
Total contribution in USD: 2,130,540 [rank: 24]
Total contribution in currency: 1,620,277 EUR
Unrestricted contribution (USD): 54,667 [rank: 37]
Donor ranking per GDP: 27
Donor ranking per capita: 25
More info 550,843
Total contribution in USD: 550,843 (rank: 31)
Total contribution in currency: 420,250 EUR
Unrestricted contribution (USD): 524,246 (rank: 22)
Donor ranking per GDP: 38
Donor ranking per capita: 35
More info 1,751,435
Total contribution in USD: 1,751,435 (rank: 30)
Total contribution in currency: 542,250 EUR; 1,000,000 USD
Unrestricted contribution (USD): 557,880 (rank: 22)
Donor ranking per GDP: 33
Donor ranking per capita: 32
More info 2,442,039
Total contribution in USD: 2,442,039 (rank: 24)
Total contribution in currency: 1,258,110 (EUR); 500,000 (USD)
Unrestricted contribution (USD): 622,084 (rank: 23)
Donor ranking per GDP: 26
Donor ranking per capita: 26
More info 1,750,381
Total contribution in USD: 1,750,381 (rank: 28)
Total contribution in currency: 1,313,500 (EUR)
Unrestricted contribution (USD): 1,120,938 (rank: 20)
Donor ranking per GDP: 33
Donor ranking per capita: 28
More info 1,190,771
Total contribution in USD: 1,190,771 [1] (rank: 36)
Total contribution in currency: 940,000 (EUR)
Unrestricted contribution (USD): 1,015,228 (rank: 22)
Donor ranking per GDP: 25
Donor ranking per capita: 25
[1] In addition, Greece agreed to reallocate USD 3,713,265 of unspent funds from its 2005 Tsunami contribution against the 2006 Annual Programme Budget.
More info 4,961,521
USD 4,961,521 of which 1,138,347 (23%) unrestricted and USD 3,823,174 (77%) earmarked at the country level.
More info 1,411,789
USD 1,411,789 of which USD 1,006,101 (71%) was unrestricted and USD 405,688 (29%) earmarked at the country level.
More info 1,588,213
USD 1,588,213 of which USD 750,000 (47%) was unrestricted, USD 300,000 (19%) earmarked at the subregional level and USD 538,213 (34%) earmarked at the country level.
More info 798,216
USD 798,216 of which USD 600,000 unrestricted (75%), USD 198,216 earmarked at the sub-regional level (25%).
More info 821,550
USD 821,550 of which 300,000 (37%) unrestricted and 521,550 (63%) earmarked.
More info 300,000
USD 300,000 of which 100% unrestricted.
Private Sector Contributions to UNHCR
Private sector fund raising 2013

Total contribution in USD: 254,178
Total contribution in currency: 194,388 (EUR)
Major donorUSD
Stavros Niarchos Foundation76,628

2013 Contributions chart
Contributions since 2006
More info 57,936
As at 8 May 2014
More info 254,178

Total contribution in USD: 254,178
Total contribution in currency: 194,388 (EUR)
Major donorUSD
Stavros Niarchos Foundation76,628
More info 273,255

Total contribution in USD: 273,255
Total contribution in currency: 211,157 (EUR)
More info 318,629

Total contribution in USD: 318,629
Total contribution in currency: 231,443 (EUR)
More info 299,843

Total contribution in USD: 299,843
Total contribution in currency: 224,327 EUR
2009 414,899
2008 762,004
2007 503,251
2006 607,816

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Beyond the Border

In 2010, the Turkish border with Greece became the main entry point for people attempting by irregular methods to reach member states of the European Union, with over 132,000 arrivals. While some entered as migrants with the simple wish of finding a better life, a significant number fled violence or persecution in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq and Somalia. The journey is perilous, with many reports of drowning when people board flimsy vessels and try to cross the Mediterranean Sea or the River Evros on the border between Greece and Turkey. The many deficiencies in the Greek asylum system are exacerbated by the pressure of tens of thousands of people awaiting asylum hearings. Reception facilities for new arrivals, including asylum-seekers, are woefully inadequate. Last year, UNHCR visited a number of overcrowded facilities where children, men and women were detained in cramped rooms with insufficient facilities. UNHCR is working with the Greek government to improve its asylum system and has called upon other European states to offer support.

Beyond the Border

George Dalaras

George Dalaras

The makeshift camp at Patras

Thousands of irregular migrants, some of whom are asylum-seekers and refugees, have sought shelter in a squalid, makeshift camp close to the Greek port of Patras since it opened 13 years ago. The camp consisted of shelters constructed from cardboard and wood and housed hundreds of people when it was closed by the Greek government in July 2009. UNHCR had long maintained that it did not provide appropriate accommodation for asylum-seekers and refugees. The agency had been urging the government to find an alternative and put a stronger asylum system in place to provide appropriate asylum reception facilities for the stream of irregular migrants arriving in Greece each year.The government used bulldozers to clear the camp, which was destroyed by a fire shortly afterwards. All the camp residents had earlier been moved and there were no casualties. Photographer Zalmaï, a former refugee from Afghanistan, visited the camp earlier in the year.

The makeshift camp at Patras

Jihan's Story

Like millions, 34-year-old Jihan was willing to risk everything in order to escape war-torn Syria and find safety for her family. Unlike most, she is blind.

Nine months ago, she fled Damascus with her husband, Ashraf, 35, who is also losing his sight. Together with their two sons, they made their way to Turkey, boarding a boat with 40 others and setting out on the Mediterranean Sea. They hoped the journey would take eight hours. There was no guarantee they would make it alive.

After a treacherous voyage that lasted 45 hours, the family finally arrived at a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, called Milos - miles off course. Without support or assistance, they had to find their own way to Athens.

The police detained them for four days upon their arrival. They were cautioned to stay out of Athens, as well as three other Greek cities, leaving them stranded.

By now destitute and exhausted, the family were forced to split up - with Ashraf continuing the journey northwards in search of asylum and Jihan taking their two sons to Lavrion, an informal settlement about an hour's drive from the Greek capital.

Today, Jihan can only wait to be reunited with her husband, who has since been granted asylum in Denmark. The single room she shares with her two sons, Ahmed, 5, and Mohammad, 7, is tiny, and she worries about their education. Without an urgent, highly complex corneal transplant, her left eye will close forever.

"We came here for a better life and to find people who might better understand our situation," she says, sadly. "I am so upset when I see how little they do [understand]."

Jihan's Story

A Teenager in Exile

Like fathers and sons everywhere, Fewaz and Malak sometimes struggle to coexist. A new haircut and a sly cigarette are all it takes to raise tensions in the cramped apartment they currently call home. But, despite this, a powerful bond holds them together: refugees from Syria, they have been stranded for almost a year in an impoverished neighbourhood of Athens.

They fled their home with the rest of the family in the summer of 2012, after war threw their previously peaceful life into turmoil. From Turkey, they made several perilous attempts to enter Greece.

Thirteen-year-old Malak was the first to make it through the Evros border crossing. But Fewaz, his wife and their two other children were not so lucky at sea, spending their life savings on treacherous voyages on the Mediterranean only to be turned back by the Greek coastguard.

Finally, on their sixth attempt, the rest of the family crossed over at Evros. While his wife and two children travelled on to Germany, Fewaz headed to Athens to be reunited with Malak.

"When I finally saw my dad in Athens, I was so happy that words can't describe," says Malak. However, the teenager is haunted by the possibility of losing his father again. "I am afraid that if my dad is taken, what will I do without him?"

Until the family can be reunited, Malak and his father are determined to stick together. The boy is learning to get by in Greek. And Fewaz is starting to get used to his son's haircut.

A Teenager in Exile

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