UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in cooperation with the municipalities of Karditsa and Larissa, announced today the implementation of a programme to provide accommodation and support services for 600 refugees in the two Thessaly cities.
The new places will be located in 30 apartments in Karditsa and 70 apartments in Larissa in the latest expansion of the ESTIA (Emergency Support to Integration and Accommodation) programme, which is funded by the European Union – Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid and implemented by UNHCR in close cooperation with the Ministry of Migration Policy, helping some 31,000 people so far with suitable accommodation.
Under the agreement with Karditsa, announced today by UNHCR and AΝΚΑ, the development company of Karditsa Municipality, the ESTIA programme will house 180 refugees in apartments. “We will make every effort to help the refugees adjust to the social life of the city,” said Fotis Alexakos, Mayor of Karditsa and president of AΝΚΑ. “Social workers, interpreters and expert staff will be employed for this programme, which is also embraced by all local actors, including the church, the hospital, education authorities and the welfare. Our common goal is the accommodation of these people in the best possible conditions for as long as they need to stay in our region.”
In Larissa, Apostolos Kalogiannis, Mayor of Larissa, said the implementation of ESTIA by DIKEL – Larissa Municipal Utility – was an important moment for the refugee response in the city, which will accept 420.
“The people and municipality of Larissa responded to the refugee situation from the very beginning showing responsibility, humanity and solidarity to those uprooted and victims of war. Our cooperation with UNHCR gives us the opportunity to take a step further to improve living conditions for vulnerable groups. This way we can also use apartments that are not used by their owners,” he said.
With today’s ceremonies, eight municipalities (Athens, Thessaloniki, Livadia, Crete, Trikala, Nea Filadelfeia – Nea Chalkidona, Karditsa and Larissa) are now involved in a scheme offering accommodation and integration prospects to asylum seekers. According to Philippe Leclerc, UNHCR Representative in Greece, this shows the local authorities’ capacity to support the reception of refugees, as well as their ability to implement projects supported by the EC.
“We can really learn from each other when we live together and exchange experiences. We are happy to witness so many municipalities and local communities setting an example towards this direction”, Mr. Leclerc said.
In the framework of the ESTIA programme, implemented by UNHCR in cooperation with a series of NGOs and eight municipalities, refugee families are also able to meet their basic daily needs through cash card assistance. Beneficiaries also receive social support service, such as psychosocial support, interpretation and transportation to and from the Asylum Service.