UNHCR has received funding from the European Economic Area (EEA) Grants to continue assisting Greece in upgrading its asylum and migration system. Its location at EU’s external border has made the country one of the main entry gates to Europe. This has put increased pressure on the asylum system in Greece.
- This is the first time that UNHCR will be supported by the EEA Grants. For UNHCR, it is significant that the funding goes to the very specific situation of Greece and the challenges it faces with regard to asylum and migration, says Laurens Jolles, UNHCR’s Regional Representative for Southern Europe.
UNHCR works in particular with the Ministry of Citizen Protection and its services, as well as the Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity, towards a fair and efficient asylum system and improved reception capacity and conditions in Greece, in line with European and international standards.
- The support of the EEA Grants to UNHCR will enable the organization to continue working in close co-operation with the Greek authorities, says Laurens Jolles, UNHCR’s Regional Representative for Southern Europe.
During recent years Greece has begun to reform its asylum system. In 2011, UNHCR has strengthened its operations in Greece in order to support the Greek authorities in implementing the “National Plan for Migration Management and Asylum” adopted in August 2010. UNHCR experts participate in asylum interviews, give advice to the Greek authorities on international refugee law and on the situation in the country of origin of asylum-seekers. The experts also participate as full-voting members in appeals committees and provide technical expertise and support in improving reception conditions, in particular for unaccompanied or separated children.
Reforms have led to progress, including an improved quality of the asylum decision making process. However, enormous challenges remain with regard to the capacity to register asylum applications, to clear a backlog of appeals and to increase reception-capacity for asylum-seekers, including minors.
States that are signatories to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention are obliged to ensure a humane and fair treatment of persons seeking international protection. The Refugee Convention defines who is a refugee, the rights of refugees and the legal obligations the States have towards refugees. UNHCR is the guardian of the Convention and has the mandate to protect refugees.
The donation to UNHCR by the EEA Grants is jointly financed by Norway, Iceland, and Lichtenstein. It is part of an asylum and migration programme, agreed between the three countries and Greece in November 2011, directing EUR 21 million in total to assist Greece in modernising its asylum and migration system.