The City of Athens received €5 million award to implement the proposal “Curing the Limbo” which was submitted to the second call of the Urban Innovative Actions initiative of the European Union. The results were announced during the European Week of Regions and Cities 2017 in Brussels.
Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) is an Initiative of the European Union to provide urban areas throughout Europe with resources to pilot innovative solutions for complex urban challenges. Among the themes of the second call were (a) the integration of migrants and refugees, (b) circular economy and (c) urban mobility. Athens’ proposal in the topic “integration of migrants and refugees” was selected along with 15 out of a total of 206 proposals from 21 European member states.
The City of Athens’ proposal “Curing the Limbo” is about empowering stranded refugees who have been granted asylum to get out of a characteristic state referred as “limbo” which has struck a part of the population doomed to months and years of waiting for the next stage in their life. It involves four strategic partners: two international NGOs, CRS (Catholic Relief Services) International and IRC Hellas (International Rescue Committee), the University of Athens and the Athens Development and Destination Management Agency S.A.
From Brussels the Mayor of Athens, Georgios Kaminis stated that: "I am particularly glad that once again City of Athens’ engagement in social innovation projects and especially its’ linking to the important issue of refugee integration is being awarded and supported by European funding, proving that cities can provide solutions to the multiple challenges Europe is facing”.
The program connects refugees with active citizens of Athens offering an escape from inertia through their participation in activities for the public benefit that respond to existing needs of the city. At the same time it develops the soft skills required for the refugees’ integration and offers incentives and tools for the acquisition of affordable housing.
The idea addresses a universal phenomenon burdening the spirit in many other European cities: The inactive population, whether it consists of newly arrived refugees, under-skilled migrants, unemployed locals, or solitary pensioners, is a challenge of our times.
“Athens’ proposal was based on the experience earned by the City of Athens in the last two years by managing the refugee crisis through the Coordination Center for Migrants and Refugees-which is exclusively funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and facilitated by the Athens Partnership-and the Accommodation Program for Asylum Seekers. Through these initiatives we realized that there was an unaddressed urgent challenge in the city. The implementation of the idea will be coordinated through synAthina, which connects Athenian civil society with local government to maximize impact”, stated Amalia Zepou, Vice Mayor for Civil Society and Innovation. synAthina was a 2014 winner of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, an ideas competition for cities.