Athens Migrant Integration Center offers free computer classes for refugees and migrants with the support of UNHCR

Athina Vrakatseli

Refugees and migrants – from this February – are attending free computer classes at the Migrant Integration Centre (KEM) of the City of Athens, with the support of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

The new programme is available to adults (beginners or advanced) interested in basic computing skills (Windows, Word, Excel και Internet) and applications to participate can be submitted every day from 9 am to 1 pm, at KEM premises, Mezonos 45 and Psaron str. (ground floor).

“With the same responsibility we have managed the refugee crisis since day one, we are also managing the smooth integration of these people by giving them access to education and vocational training,” said the Mayor of the City of Athens, Mr. George Kaminis. “Integration policies are our priority, as in this way we will ensure that human rights are respected and that life in Athens runs smoothly”, he said.

“These classes aim to build skills and create professional opportunities for migrants and refugees and the support of UNHCR constitutes the culmination of our cooperation since the beginning of KEM’s operation”, said Mr. Lefteris Papagiannakis, Vice-Mayor for Migrants and Refugees.

“While migrants and refugees are moving and settle in a new country, they need to find new jobs and they often lack some skills needed to begin or continue their career”, said Ms. Efi Kolionika, computer teacher at KEM. “Activities like this put into practice the social integration of migrants and refugee in the Greek society”, she added.

“A potential employer shall take into account a computer certificate when he/she goes through candidates’ CVs. Plus, learning helps us psychologically and contributes to our self confidence in a new country”, explains F.S., one of the students.

In addition to computer classes, as part of its efforts to promote social inclusion, KEM also offers individual professional counseling sessions, intercultural actions as well as Greek and English language courses. KEM also acts as a focal point for services to third country nationals, such as provision of information, psycho-social support, legal support and networking as well as collaboration with other organizations for referral purposes.

“UNHCR has supported the operation of KEM from the very first moment, with capacity building and support services. This is only one aspect of our multi-level institutional cooperation with the Municipality of Athens”, said Philippe Leclerc, UNHCR Representative in Greece. “Our partnership with local authorities is instrumental in our efforts to provide dignified reception but also help refugees to rebuild their life. The role of facilities like KEM within the municipalities is of critical importance in what should be a joint priority: create the potential for refugees to learn, access jobs and become self-reliant members of their cities”, he added.

UNHCR’s cooperation with the City of Athens includes a number of initiatives, among them the Accommodation and Services Scheme for Asylum Seekers programme, part of ESTIA (Emergency Support to Integration and Accommodation), implemented by UNHCR and funded by EU, which offers more than 1,820 accommodation places in apartments through the Athens Development and Destination Management Agency (ADDMA). Additionally, UNHCR actively participates in the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues (ACCMR) and holds an observatory role in the Migrant Integration Council. UNHCR has also donated core relief items to citizens in need. The activities of KEM are implemented with the co-funding of the European Social Fund-National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) 2014-2020.