For years now the public debate and policy making in relation to the management of refugee and migrant’s flows are blatantly ignoring one of the most complicated aspects: what happens with those who are found to fulfil the requirements to stay in Greece as beneficiaries of international protection. Publicly available […]
For years now the public debate and policy making in relation to the management of refugee and migrant’s flows are blatantly ignoring one of the most complicated aspects: what happens with those who are found to fulfil the requirements to stay in Greece as beneficiaries of international protection.
Publicly available statistics of the Asylum Service indicate that in the period from June 2013 to November 2019 out of 272,939 persons whose application for international protection was decided, a total of 50,233 were granted international protection ie were given, after individual examination, the right to stay as they were facing persecution in their country. What is the next step in the life of those people?
Since 2014, Greek legislation (Law 4251/2014) establishes the social integration of beneficiaries of international protection and introduces the commitment of the State to facilitate their adaptation to Greek society as well as the possibility of equal participation in the economic, social and cultural life of the country.
The National Strategy for Social Integration and the National Strategy for the Integration of Third Country Nationals (both in its initial format of 2013 and in the version adopted in 2018) describe the architecture of integration for beneficiaries of international protection: a tiny percentage amongst them has the potential and/or the luck required to start a new life without any help or other support. A small, but not tiny, percentage will always depend on state assistance as persecution and serious harm back in the country of origin or during the flight have left their permanent mark on their body or soul. Lastly, the vast majority amongst them will need some sort of guidance, opportunity and temporary support in order to pursue, gradually and willingly so, learning the language, understanding the culture and smoothly entering the labour market.
National systems (for healthcare, education, promotion to employment, social welfare) are open to the inclusion of beneficiaries of international protection on conditions similar to those for Greek citizens. At least in theory, because in practice there are several obstacles, often proven insurmountable. The objective of those systems is not to eternally link their beneficiaries with social welfare benefits but to cover basic needs arising from vulnerabilities and to support persons concerned in their effort ‘to stand on their own feet’.
It is imperative that a frank public debate be conducted, away from exaggerations and utopic agendas, with solid arguments and realistic proposals for some key critical questions, even for those raised in bad faith: Is the funding of national systems enough to cover the cost of access for this population group? If not, how can additional funding be secured? Does integration support attract more refugee and migrant flows or is it essential for the broader social cohesion? How does inclusion and the integration process create added value and offset benefits for the host society and contribute to sustainable development? What are the opportunities offered by the new ESIF programmatic cycle for 2021-2027?
Essentially this public debate is positioned between two extremes: On the one hand and as already reiterated during the first Global Refugee Forum conducted in Geneva last December, no country in the world, neither Greece, disposes an open-ended integration capacity. Greece needs to be supported by its European partners including through fair responsibility sharing. On the other hand, Greece has committed to the observance of legal obligations of ecumenical and regional character which prevail over national legislation. Thus, the options of legislators and the wishes of society can only be pursued within international legality.
The recent re-establishment of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum offers the right opportunity to initiate this public debate and to move integration from the drawer of forgotten issues to the front desk of priorities.
The op-ed was hosted in Greek by the Sunday newspaper To Vima tis Kyriakis on 19.01.2020