Mr. Kostas Bakoyannis, Mayor of the City of Athens, and Ms. Maria Clara Martin, UNHCR Representative, signed a Memorandum of Cooperation earlier this week, to strengthen their collaboration towards the integration of refugees in Greece.
UNHCR has been working in close cooperation with the City of Athens for many years on multiple programmes promoting dignified reception of refugees, accommodation and harmonious co-existence with local communities.
UNHCR also provides support to both the Athens coordination Centre for Migrant and Refugee Issues (ACCMR) and the Cities Network for integration (CNI).
Further cooperation with the City of Athens has been developed to ensure adequate and specialized support for asylum seekers and refugees with disabilities through a partnership with the Athens Development and Destination Management Agency (ADDMA).
“The City of Athens supports any effort aimed at the integration and inclusion of refugees in Greek society, as well as their dignified living. Our close cooperation with UNHCR through pioneering programmes and activities, has contributed to the achievement of this joint goal. We know this is a continuous effort and we will do whatever needed to address the challenges in front of us”, said Mr. Bakoyannis, Mayor of Athens, at the signature event.
Athens has made significant progress in supporting the integration and inclusion of refugees, including through the establishment of the ground-breaking ‘Migrant Integration Centre’ (KEM) at the end of 2017. This model has proven very effective in helping people surmount the various challenges faced when trying to integrate in a new host country and is now operational in nine more cities.
The agreement signed today will ensure the capacity development of personnel of various departments of the City of Athens supporting asylum-seekers and refugees, while boosting integration-oriented activities, in line with the National Integration Strategy. UNHCR will deploy expert staff to support the City of Athens, and work towards expanding its international network. An ‘Integration and Innovation Hub’ will be piloted as part of this collaboration. In total, UNHCR has now signed ten such partnerships with municipalities across Greece.
“Athens and its people have demonstrated immense solidarity to refugees for many years. The Mayor and the City of Athens have shown innovation in developing new approaches to support the most vulnerable. We look forward to working together even more closely. When refugees integrate, the local population and society as a whole, also benefit” said the UNHCR Representative in Greece.