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Greece's new National Strategy for the Integration of Asylum Seekers published in December 2021

Greece's new National Strategy for the Integration of Asylum Seekers and International Protection Beneficiaries was published on 1 December 2021. The document is based on the EU New Action Plan (24/11/2020) and adopts the European Commission's recommendations for social inclusion, with emphasis on early action and the pre-integration process for those with a refugee profile. 

It includes four main pillars:

(a) Pre-integration of asylum seekers for the smooth transition of adults into working life and subsequently for the transition of minors from the informal to the formal education, without any discrimination. 
(b) Social inclusion of beneficiaries of international protection through development of intensive education and training programmes for facilitating beneficiaries' access to the labour market. 
(c) Prevention and effective protection against all forms of violence, exploitation and abuse by strengthening reporting mechanisms.
(d) Monitoring and supervision of the integration process through publicly acceptable and comparable indicators.

Promotion of the European way of life and the rule of law constitutes one of the main objectives of the Plan as well.

In terms of its philosophy, the new National Strategy for Integration is inspired by an assumption that social inclusion is achieved through two-way integration process, which must be supported by cooperation, dialogue and engagement – in other words, participation of the host society at all stages (from the reception until the completion of the integration).

The proposed actions revolve around strengthening independent living, social housing, employment and social welfare. The provision of properly trained and certified interpreters in the main languages of asylum seekers and refugees is included in all the actions planned.

Particular emphasis is put on enhancement of educational and professional knowledge, training, skills acquisition and language learning. The educational process is governed by the principle of equal access in a quality, non-discriminatory and exclusionary education. Apart from formal education, non-formal education is provided at the pre-integration stage. The latter is holistic in nature and includes, in addition to learning Greek, such topics as familiarity with the European way of life, the principles of democracy and gender equality, prevention of domestic violence, and fight against human trafficking. 

For the purpose of peaceful coexistence, the New National Strategy differs significantly from that of 2019, as it focuses on the integration of refugees into Greek society and not in the creation of parallel social systems that lead to ghettos and increased social marginalization, poverty, radicalization and crime. Regarding the implementation of the new National Strategy, apart from cooperation between the competent Ministries, coordination mechanisms have been provided at all levels of governance and in particular at the level of local and regional authorities, while an important role is taken by other competent bodies for the preparation, development and planned implementation of various actions, including cooperation with International Organizations and NGOs.
The Plan aims to ensure a safe living environment, especially for women, children and people with special needs, including identification and management of cases of chronic mental health problems and / or disabilities.

Care is taken to promote sexual health, as well as  the drug addiction programmes. The participation of minors at all stages of the processes that concern and affect them, as well as the design of courses based on the needs of trainees and segregation into appropriate classes (respectively with age) for language and communication development skills in Greek (preparatory courses), are also promoted. Increasing the awareness of the principle of prohibition of discrimination, respect for diversity and cohesive societies is also included.

Emphasis is also put on the development of intensive facilitation programmes for the direct access of refugees to the labour market. The plan includes a free provision of mandatory Greek language courses for adults, so as to obtain a certificate language level B1, and optional courses of Greek language up to level C2, with possibility of obtaining a corresponding language proficiency certificate.

According to the Plan, the development of professional skills is supported via:

a) vocational training and apprenticeship
b) specialization through initial or ongoing education (VET- Vocational Education Training)
c) training seminars for job search and enhancing technological skills
d) development of handicraft workshops 
(e) facilitating networking with local cooperatives and women's associations.

In terms of raising public awareness on issues related to the rule of law, human rights, social cohesion and integration, the document includes the following actions:

• Action 1: Raising awareness of local communities through close cooperation with the Local Government.
• Action 2: Organization of sports, social, recreational refugee activities (chess tournaments, basketball, volleyball).

Finally, the Plan refers to the need of providing incentives so that the distribution of refugees/migrants after leaving the system could be proportional to the size of the population of rural and urban areas in which they will reside.