In 2015 – 2016, over a million people arrived in Greece seeking safety in Europe. In their majority from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, they had fled war and persecution in their home countries. After the closure of the ‘Balkan Route’ in March 2016, more than 50,000 people remained in Greece. The country was faced with an urgent problem: to house tens of thousands of people when the country had only 1,200 places for them to stay.
UNHCR offered to create 20,000 places in apartments, in what became the first pillar of the ESTIA programme. Having left their homeland and having survived harrowing routes to reach Europe, asylum-seekers needed a new home. The second pillar – ESTIA Cash – ensured that all asylum-seekers could meet their basic daily needs. The cash programme supported not only those in ESTIA apartments but also the tens of thousands of persons living in camps, or on their own in urban areas. Both pillars were implemented by UNHCR and the Hellenic Republic, with financial support from the European Union (EU).