The current refugee housing programme, sponsored by the European Commission in cooperation with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), ends in 2018, and mayors from all over Greece attended a conference to discuss strategies that can secure decent housing for refugees beyond that point.
The programme has benefitted almost 40,000 people in the last two years, according to the UNHCR, and Greek mayors are seeking ways to make it sustainable and place it under their control.
Much of the funding for refugees and migrants has been channeled through NGO’s, and main opposition New Democracy has raised questions about the transparency of procedures under which hundreds of millions of euros in aid has been disbursed, and has charged that the government has used refugee programmes as a patronage mill for hiring cronies.
In July, the Commission announced 209 million euros in aid to Greece to grapple with the migration problem, and 22,000 migrants have found decent housing through a programme to house refugees in rented apartments and homes on the mainland.
Most of the estimated 60,000 refugees stranded in Greece after European countries shut their borders are located in crowded camps, often in atrocious conditions.
The conference was attended by the mayors of the 13 municipalities participating in the programme: Athens, Chania, Heraklion, Kalamaria, Karditsa, Larissa, Livadeia, Neapoli – Sykies, New Philadelphia – New Chalkidona, Rethymnon, Sitia, Thessaloniki and Trikala.
At the UNHCR-organised conference, mayors met to “share experiences on hosting refugees and asylum seekers, discuss best practices and exchange concerns and hopes about the future of the programme”, according to the agency.
“Working group discussions focused on partnerships and initiatives to promote inclusion and integration of refugees, transition towards self-reliance and job opportunities,” UNHCR said in a statement.
At the conference, Athens Mayor Yorgos Kaminis and Thessaloniki Mayor Yannis Boutaris announced their intention to establish a network among all municipalities that host refugees.