- Population: 11 million
- Asylum seekers in Greece: 119,700, of which 19,100 are on the islands (Lesbos, Samos, Chios)
- Rank in Human Development Index: 33 of 191
- Started work in Greece: July 2015
- People assisted: over 30,000
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) Hellas started operating in Greece in 2015, on the island of Lesvos, in response to the unprecedented number of refugees arriving on the island at the time.
Our mission at IRC Hellas is to help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster, to survive, recover and gain control of their future.
Our vision is to be recognised as a key civil society stakeholder supporting an expanded body of vulnerable people become empowered and thrive through inclusive, feminist-oriented and sustainable programs.
Since the start of programming in Greece, the IRC has provided support and protection services to people living in camps and urban settings. Directly, or in collaboration with partners, we have provided shelter, emergency supplies, safe transportation, access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, vital, reliable, and up-to-date information, protection for people with vulnerabilities, mental health and psychosocial support, as well as employability services to refugees, asylum-seekers and other vulnerable individuals in Greece.
Our work in Greece
Our team of professionals on humanitarian response and social services, is currently engaged in Athens and on the island of Lesvos, and until the first months of 2022 on Samos and Chios, and we provide nationwide up-to-date reliable information through Refugee.Info.
On Lesvos we provide mental health and psychosocial support and also services of child protection, non-formal education and cultural orientation.
In Athens, we provide a variety of child protection, mental health and psychosocial support and labour market integration services.
Our main programmes focus on:
Since August 2019, IRC Hellas has been implementing a child protection programme in Athens, which aims at supporting unaccompanied children - 16 years old and above - to become self-reliant and transition smoothly into adulthood. The Supported Independent Living (SIL) programme provides vital accommodation places for unaccompanied children in Greece and is considered quality alternative care, which promotes individualised support, in line with the best interest of each child. Each apartment hosts up to four children of mixed nationalities, supported by a team of experienced professionals, including social workers, caretakers, interpreters and lawyers. Currently, IRC operates ten SIL apartments, five of which under the “Fostering the Transition of Unaccompanied children to Adulthood - FUTURA” project, funded by EEA/Norway Grants, 2014-2021 under the “Asylum and Migration II” component, and five under the “Supported Independent Living for Unaccompanied Minors Unit” project, funded by the National Asylum Migration and Integration Fund 2014-2020 (AMIF).
Since April 2021, IRC Hellas has also been supporting efforts towards deinstitutionalisation in Greece, through the piloting of the “Supported-Independent Living model of care for children above 15 years old and young adults who live under institutional care in Greece” - irrespective of ethnic, racial or other characteristics. The project is implemented in the context of Child Guarantee, in partnership with UNICEF and in close collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the Institute of Child’s Health.
The project operates three apartments in Athens, with the capacity to accommodate up to twelve people. Currently, four adult girls and two adolescent girls close to adulthood are hosted in two of the three apartments, and receive personalised psychosocial support, and a variety of other activities and opportunities (educational, legal and recreational).
The main goal of the project is to empower the beneficiaries to become autonomous and acquire the necessary skills for an independent and active life. Therefore, all services provided by the IRC aim at the development of life skills, including employability support, combined with counselling and career guidance.
Since August 2022, IRC Hellas has piloted an accommodation scheme to support asylum seeking and refugee single women with their children, to become independent. The Women’s Independent Living (WIL) programme, supported by a team of experienced professionals (social worker, caretakers, interpreters, lawyer), provides safe accommodation, psychosocial and legal support, interpretation, assistance in developing life and job skills and accessing the labour market, taking into account the individual needs and wishes of each woman. The team ensures the women supported have access to health, children’s education and nursery school, social and specialised legal services, Greek and English language courses, as well as creative activities, seminars, women’s empowerment groups etc.
The WIL programme aims for the overall protection and empowerment of the women, above and beyond the time of their stay, supporting their autonomy and integration. WIL provides four apartments in central Athens and it is under the “Fostering the Transition of Unaccompanied children to Adulthood - FUTURA” project.
In February 2023, IRC Hellas commenced prevention programming under “CARE: Community-Based Primary Prevention of Gender-based Violence in Greece and Italy” funded by the European Commision and the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme (CERV), leading a binational consortium consisting of Caritas Hellas, Global Girl Media, and Centro Penc.
CARE aims at contributing towards the prevention of gender-based violence against women and girls, with a focus on intimate partner violence, by addressing the root causes of it. The IRC will implement community-based interventions that engage women to build peer support networks, empowerment, and capacity to lead change in their communities and support other women. Men will be engaged in a transformative process to foster accountability, encourage change of gender-based violence related gender norms, shift in attitudes, and likelihood of bystander intervention, guided by the voices of women.
Since February 2016, IRC Hellas has been offering a comprehensive Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) programme, aiming to ensure that refugees and asylum seekers receive the MHPSS services they need to cope with past violence and persecution, as well as displacement. The MHPSS programme currently operates in Lesvos and Athens, following the increased transfers of people from the islands to the mainland. It’s worth mentioning that in Lesvos, members of the host community were also included in the target population, responding to the lack of mental health support services on the island. The IRC MHPSS programme in Athens operates in collaboration with One Happy Family Community Center (OHF), and following the war in Ukraine, the team responds to the needs of displaced people from Ukraine.
When necessary, the team conducts referrals to private psychiatrists, neurologists, and to the local hospitals, as well as to NGOs for legal support, accommodation, and educational activities among others, while the IRC covers the medication in order to ensure access to the treatment.
In the context of the programme, psychosocial group activities, including psycho-education sessions, are offered in different mental health topics with the goal of raising awareness regarding mental health problems, reducing stigma through the provision of information, identifying people who are in need of mental health support but also enhance the social support of the participants. Focus is also given to capacity building of other key actors (mental health professionals and other first responders, such as volunteers and employees of NGOs and public stakeholders) that work with refugees, to ensure improved quality of care and access to service provision for people in need of mental health care. Since November 2022, the MHPSS team has started the provision of support groups to first responders (professionals and volunteers of other organisations) by recognising the need but also providing a holistic approach to all the people included in the service provision of the refugees, migrants and vulnerable host population.
Started in 2015 as a mobile website, Refugee.Info provides critical information to thousands of asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants residing in Greece and/or traveling across Europe. It has since evolved into a unique, informative and trusted resource with 116,000 followers on Facebook in March 2023, for asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and aid actors. The programme provides information through its newly redesigned website and maintains a helpdesk through its Facebook page and a service mapping across Greece.
Since April 2022 Refugee.Info has partnered with Mobile Info Team in an effort to reach more people by joining forces - current partnership is in place until June 2023. Mobile Info Team responds to all the messages received through the Refugee.Info Facebook Page in English, Arabic, Urdu, French, Farsi and if needed in Ukrainian too.
Refugee.Info’s mission is to follow all the latest asylum procedures as well as all other procedures on housing and benefits, rights and obligations that directly impact asylum seekers and refugees. Information is accurate, up-to-date, time-sensitive and timely shared through the website in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, French, English and Ukrainian. Refugee.Info follows a strict escalation protocol to inquiries concerning protection cases, links the Refugee.Info with other online community groups based in refugee camps and urban areas in Greece, work with partners, NGOs, governments, refugees and asylum-seekers to make sure the information provided is useful, and utilises text to speech technology to render all articles and service mapping pages more accessible to people with sight problems or low literacy.
Since 2017, IRC Hellas has been providing, directly and in collaboration with partners, employment and self-employment services and skills development. The focus of the programme is to support refugees, migrants, and vulnerable locals, to integrate into the labour market.
Employability and Entrepreneurship: The IRC provides employability services to refugees, migrants, and vulnerable Greeks, such as individual job counselling and job readiness workshops that develop crucial skills, as well as an introduction to labour rights and familiarisation with Greek work culture. Over 2,000 people have received employability support to date, from the IRC and its partners. As part of the Resilient Futures programme funded by Citi Foundation the IRC provides employment services directly to vulnerable youth as well as self-employment support. In addition, and in partnership with Alba Graduate Business School, the American College of Greece, the IRC implements “Craft your Business”, a business training and coaching program where clients receive business training and coaching and have the opportunity to apply for start-up grants and further technical and professional support. Over 500 people have received entrepreneurship support to date.
Education and Cultural Orientation: The IRC supports the early integration and cultural orientation of refugees and asylum seekers in Athens, through Greek language courses, basic computer literacy and other cultural orientation and skills building activities.
Holistic support for UAC reaching adulthood: The IRC, in collaboration with UNHCR offers empowerment and self-reliance support to youth 18-21 in the form of a holistic programme that provides psychosocial support, Greek language lessons, career counselling, housing navigation support and educational opportunities, such as vocational trainings and scholarships.
IRC Hellas is also leading the “PROGEDI - Promoting, Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace”, a 16-month project with two partners, KEAN (Cell of Alternative Youth Activities) and Generation 2.0 RED. The main objectives of the project are: (1) To foster a sustainable culture of inclusion in Greece, by raising awareness and strengthening the capacity in multi-dimensional diversity in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and selected public sector agencies and creating dialogue platforms between civil society, academia, underrepresented communities and businesses, and (2) to strengthen national and transnational cooperation on diversity management and inclusion practices through the sharing of best practices, resources and tools in Greece and Europe.
Finally, IRC Hellas collaborates with METAdrasi on the “Hellenic Integration Support for Beneficiaries of International Protection - HELIOS” refugee integration project, to provide cultural orientation, create educational material and prepare beneficiaries of international protection living in Athens with life, cultural and job readiness skills.
IRC Hellas advocates in Greece and the EU for the protection of the rights of asylum seekers and refugees regarding access to territory, asylum procedures, reception conditions, protection services, access to information and integration.
Working in close cooperation with the IRC programmes in Greece, the advocacy team conducts research and compiles reports, briefings and letters, addressed to decision makers to keep them aware of the reality on the ground, possible breaches of legislation and policies, provide recommendations and organises meetings and events to bring policymakers together and push for the full respect of asylum seekers and refugees’ rights. The advocacy team also cooperates with other NGOs to share information and produce joint briefings, reports and press releases.
Our key outcomes are:
- All children in Greece, have access to the territory and to a fair asylum procedure.
- Greece ensures a fair asylum process based on international, European and national legal provisions.
- Greece meaningfully enhances access to dignified accommodation and labour market for refugees and asylum seekers, with focus on vulnerable groups among them.
To achieve those outcomes, the advocacy team has organised several workshops over the last few years, including cooking workshops in Lesvos and storytelling ones in Athens, to bring together refugees, asylum seekers and the host community, to promote peaceful coexistence and social inclusion, through intercultural dialogue and the sharing of common experiences.
IRC Hellas and its implementing partners in Greece, Serbia and Albania are currently implementing a legal support project, which aims to meet the legal needs of people who have fled Afghanistan since August 2021. Through legal awareness sessions, targeted legal counselling and legal representation before national and regional courts and administrative authorities, Afghan evacuees receive immediate legal assistance adjusted to their needs.
IRC’s legal partners in Greece, HIAS and European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL), provide constant and fully-fledged legal assistance to asylum seekers from Afghanistan and other countries who fall under the restrictions set by the - as of June 2021 - Joint Ministerial Decision which designated Turkey as a “safe third country”. At the same time, IRC’s partners support a significant number of people who do not have access to appropriate reception conditions, either due to their situation of legal limbo or because of the substandard living conditions in refugee camps/Closed Controlled Access Centres on islands.
Up to now, over 5,000 people in Greece, Serbia and Albania, who had previously forcibly fled Afghanistan, have received legal assistance in different modalities and in accordance with their needs and requests. IRC remains committed to provide tailored technical expertise to all partners, through field visits, case consultations and training, ensuring that high-quality legal support is available to those in need.
+49 (0)30 5520 4697
Director of IRC Hellas
Panepistimiou str., Athens
- Bessemer Trust
- CITI Foundation
- European Commission (DG HOME)
- EEA & Norway Grants
- Hellenic Government (National AMIF)
- Goldman Sachs Gives
- Greek Council for Refugees (EEA Grants/Bodossaki Foundation and SolidarityNow)
- Heritage Fund of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union for the 21st Century (ILGWU)
- Huang Chen Foundation
- Malcolm Hewitt Weiner Foundation
- METAdrasi - Action for Migration and Development
- SOL Crowe
- Starbucks Foundation
- Terre des Hommes
- Think Human Foundation
- Trip Advisor
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
- United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF)
- University College London (UCL)
Email: [email protected]
Head Office: 2 Imvrou, Mytilene, 81100: (+30) 22510 54338
Annex: 64 Panepistimiou Street, Athens, 10564: (+30) 2103809267
GEMI (General Electronic Commercial Registry): 135449242000
unaccompanied children provided housing through our 14 Supported Independent Living (SIL) apartments
The IRC's Supported Independent Living programme provides vital accommodation places for unaccompanied children in Greece and is considered quality alternative care, promoting individualised support in line with the best interests of each child. Each apartment hosts up to four children of mixed nationalities, supported by a team of experienced professionals, such as social workers, caretakers, interpreters and lawyers.More about the programme
mental health and psychosocial support sessions provided to 592 refugees on Lesvos, Chios and Samos
IRC Hellas provides comprehensive mental health and psychosocial support to ensure that vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers in Greece receive the support they need to heal from past violence and persecution and cope with the ongoing stress of displacement.More information
refugees received specialised training and support last year in areas including career counselling and employability skills, self-employment and entrepreneurial skills, basic language and other soft skills training
Since 2017, IRC Hellas has been providing employment and self-employment services and skills development directly and in collaboration with partners. The focus of IRC’s Economic Recovery and Development team is to support refugees, migrants, and vulnerable host populations with integration - especially into the labour market.