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Greece: ‘ADAMA’- A social inclusion centre that helps refugees become self-sufficient

Refugees and asylum seekers in Greece can now receive practical help, counselling and support for their integration into the Greek labour market through an Integration Centre in Athens, operated by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Caritas Hellas, with the support of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The ADAMA Centre started operating in early January 2022 and has already received more than 1,200 requests from men and women who want to prepare themselves to find a job and have access to basic social services in the country.

The Centre's actions are part of a wider UNHCR program in Greece aimed at supporting the integration of refugees in accordance with current legislation, the National Integration Strategy and the bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation signed by the UNHCR and the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum.

According to the Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Greece, Maria Clara Martin, "successful integration means, among other things, that refugees can earn a living and contribute to the Greek economy and the wider community." Thousands of refugees in the country have brought with them their skills, knowledge and talents, which they are willing to use, while this is necessary today for Greece as well. The ADAMA Centre, through its services and staff, aims to provide the specially designed support and guidance that many refugees need in order to get back on their feet, become self-sufficient, support their families and contribute to communities that have welcomed them.

The majority of requests (73%) that reach the Centre concern the provision of assistance in finding work. According to Ms Rania Dimitriou, CRS Integration and Livelihood Consultant, ‘at the ADAMA Centre, the connection between job-seeking refugees and employers in the private sector is facilitated. ADAMA, which means "together" in Greek, provides a platform to make this connection. Therefore, success is when the people who are supported can benefit from employment and integration opportunities and can see in front of them a productive life in Greek society’.

Refugees can participate either in person or in remote sessions in English, Farsi, Arabic, French, Sorani, Kurmanji and, soon, Ukrainian. The Centre prepares the refugees to enter the labour market by helping them to prepare their CV and the necessary documents for the applications. There is also a link to specific ads, preparation for the interview, as well as post-employment counselling and support. In addition, refugees are informed about their rights and obligations as workers, pay scales, workplace ethics and their choices regarding custody of children as working parents.

The Centre has a special area for children to play safely while their parents attend counselling sessions. The Centre, in collaboration with the UNHCR, is developing a wide network of private companies in Greece that provide employment opportunities, as well as skills development and development programs. In addition to supporting employment issues, the Centre also offers specialized services for vulnerable people, such as the homeless and the disabled, in order to facilitate their access to basic social services.
The Director of Caritas Hellas, Maria Alberti, stated that "access to employment opens a new path to a dignified life that can restore self-respect, hope and self-confidence in the soul of every human being."

On 30/3/2022, the UNHCR, CRS and Caritas Hellas received at the Centre the Ambassadors of Austria, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland to Greece. The experienced staff of the Centre informed the Ambassadors about the various services provided in order to support the active inclusion of refugees in Greek society. A discussion was also held on the challenges faced by refugees in their quest to integrate into the country, during which everyone stressed the need for tangible interventions to fill systemic gaps and take into account rapidly changing conditions.

Finally, the Ambassadors had the opportunity to talk to refugees and asylum seekers, such as Mr Likuo from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who expressed his desire to live, work and join Greece. It is noteworthy that Mr. Likuo has computer skills, speaks three languages and is learning Greek, and has just got a job offer from a company.