Athens, October 11th, 2023
More than 130 attendants and 31 speakers participated in the closing ceremony of the “Asylum and Migration” and “Local Development and Poverty Reduction” EEA Grants programmes, on September 28th, 2023, at Technopolis City of Athens.
Cooperating for more resilient asylum systems and enhanced social inclusion the EEA and Norway Grants have supported international organisations, civil society organisations and Greek authorities, aiming to create a positive impact on the lives of thousands of persons in vulnerable situations. The success of these programmes not only highlights the core values and objectives of EEA and Norway Grants, which include reducing social and economic disparities, but also align with EU policies and complement the EU’s support in this area.
In the context of the two programmes, which were awarded a total budget of 23 million euros, more than 530 professionals were hired and 11 organisations received funding for actions in 47 areas across Greece. In total, 18,048 beneficiaries were assisted, 445 of whom were unaccompanied minors, mainly asylum seekers, who were accommodated in shelters of 5 Non-Governmental Organisations. From 2019 to 2023, there have been 13,844 sessions with social workers and psychologists, 12,490 instances of consultation and 4,562 sessions with lawyers, 7,336 non formal education sessions, 4,693 primary health care sessions and 1,033 sessions with employability officers. NORCAP’s experts were present in 33 decentralized sites which were operated by the Reception and Identification Service. Inter alia, the experts have established 12 national standard operating procedures (SOPs) for reception centers. In the project run by the European Wergeland Center, 79 schools participated, and 1,289 official coordinators, teachers and school directors were trained. In the UNHCR project, 7,415 beneficiaries received legal aid services and 41 lawyers were employed. The IOM assisted 229 migrants to return voluntarily to their countries of origin. Athens Solidarity Center (run by SolidarityNow) provided services to 9,716 beneficiaries and 523 legal representations before the Asylum Service and the Courts.
Behind the projects supported by the EEA and Norway Grants are thousands of inspiring stories. One of them is ‘Schools for all’, which has achieved recognition at international level through the ongoing #OurStories campaign and has been featured in an exhibition at the European Parliament. The video of the ‘Schools for all’ project was displayed during the closing event.
At the beginning of the ceremony, the Ambassador of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Athens Lajla Jakhelln, stated in her greeting: “Human rights and human dignity are under severe pressure in many countries and regions. Yet it is in times of adversity that true dedication and resilience shine through. The two programmes have been built on a long-term cooperation between the Norwegian Directorate for Immigration and Greek and international partners. Each and everyone’s efforts, dedication and commitment have been crucial in fostering human rights for all. Not only in words, but in a very concrete way that has made a practical difference in many people’s lives”.
Following a brief statement by Dimitrios Georgiadis, Office Director of the General Secretariat for Vulnerable Persons and Institutional Protection, of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum, Stephan Mo, Director of the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration, noted “Through this program many contributors have made the life and conditions for hundreds of asylum seekers in Greece more safe, human and dignified. It shows that the civil society and NGOs have an important role to play in migration management in close cooperation with government actors.”
The value of bilateral relations was highlighted by Anita Fjeldsaeter, Senior Sector Officer of the Financial Mechanism Office in Brussels. “One of the objectives of the EEA and Norway Grants is to strengthen bilateral relations. Bilateral cooperation can be challenging, particularly under demanding circumstances, requiring significant time and unwavering commitment. These programs stand as a testament to the value and rewards that result from such dedicated efforts. Despite the pressures stemming from fluctuating migration flows and evolving beneficiary needs, the bilateral partnerships within these two programs have yielded a mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and experience, leading to invaluable initiatives that have positively impacted the lives of asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups in Greece.” On behalf of the Fund Operator, Charilaos Faltsetas, BoD Chairman of SOL Crowe Advisory, cordially thanked the Donor Countries, the Financial Mechanism Office in Brussels, the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration, the Embassy of Norway in Athens, the Greek and International organisations and all event attendees.
In her keynote speech, Leyla Kayacik, the Special Representative on Migration and Refugees of the Council of Europe, expressed gratitude to the organisers and EEA and Norway Grants for including the Council of Europe in the closing ceremony. She highlighted the Council of Europe’s commitment to promoting human rights and co-operation among member states in line with its Action Plan on Protecting Vulnerable Persons in the context of Migration and Asylum in Europe (2021 – 2025). “The Council of Europe will continue to foster an inclusive and rights-based approach to migration and asylum, placing the dignity of all individuals at the forefront of our efforts”, Ms Kayacik said. She further emphasised the importance of EEA and Norway Grants programmes in Greece and offered the Council of Europe’s support for potential follow-up initiatives.
Roger Bymolt, Results and Evaluation Officer of the Financial Mechanism Office in Brussels referred briefly to the monitoring and evaluation procedures of the EEA Grants. The results of “Asylum and Migration” and “Local Development and Poverty Reduction” programmes were presented on behalf of the Fund Operator by Anastasia Georgiou, Programme Manager, Kalliopi-Anastasia Liapi, Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator, Chrysilia Dimitriadi, Programme Reporting Coordinator, and Eleni Zacharopoulou, Communications Officer. The exchange of knowledge and best practices is the core of the EEA Grants bilateral initiatives. Leonardo Doria de Souza, Senior Adviser and representative from the Norwegian Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDi) shared the experience of the Norwegian Integration Policy, presenting the Norwegian Model on Public Service Interpreting. After that, Harry Smith, Head of Policy and Programme Support Unit, IOM Greece and Jun Shirato, Assistant Representative (Protection), UNHCR, intervened on the developments of the field and their projects, funded by the EEA Grants.
The two discussion panels were coordinated by Ioanna Fotiadi, Editor in Kathimerini newspaper and Yorgo Archimandriti, Author, cultural radio and TV host. During the discussion panels “UAMs turning 18 – The challenge of finding safe accommodation” and “Integration of UAMs to local communities. The example of formal education”, the participants (representatives of the organisations funded by the EEA Grants and beneficiaries) had the opportunity to share their experience through the programmes and discuss crucial issues and challenges of the field. Gelly Aroni, Head of the Unit for
Integration and Support of UAMs at the General Secretariat for Vulnerable Persons and Institutional Protection, of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum, also participated in the second panel, giving an institutional input, and highlighting the value of cooperation with the Civil Society Organisations.
In an emotionally charged atmosphere, Epaminondas Farmakis, Director of the EEA Grants programmes, and Co-Founder of HumanRights360, made some final remarks and thanked everyone who has been part of this effort. “The EEA Grants’ focus on systemic improvements, changes in attitudes, and hands-on interventions pave the way for a more humane, resilient and inclusive Europe.” he declared. Integral part of the event was a photography and painting exhibition with artworks of unaccompanied refugee children and vulnerable women who benefited from the programmes, curated by the photographer Olga Stefatou.
Find here the participants of the panels.
Communications Officer: Eleni Zacharopoulou
Μ. (+30) 6974206873 | E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credits: Panos Mentzinis
The “Asylum and Migration” (Addressing urgent needs for the reception and screening of asylum seekers and for the accommodation of vulnerable groups) programme in Greece, financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, was awarded a total budget of 16,5 million euros as part of the EEA Grants 2014 – 2021. The program aspires to contribute to ensuring legal protection, support and care for the most vulnerable asylum seekers, with emphasis on unaccompanied children. The “Local Development and Poverty Reduction” programme in Greece, financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, was awarded a total budget of 6,5 million euros as part of the EEA Grants 2014 – 2021. The program aspires to contribute to enhancement of social cohesion and reduction of economic and social disparities. The Fund Operator for both programmes is SOL Consulting in partnership with HumanRights360.