How to respond effectively to a potential future refugee emergency? Developing a Preparedness and Response Mechanism for the City of Athens


The refugee and migrant crisis of 2015-6 highlighted the importance of effective mobilization of municipal structures and resources to address urgent human needs. A new study that aims to establish an efficient framework of response in the case of a future refugee emergency is being supervised by the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues (ACCMR), which was established and is operating with an exclusive grant by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and with the support of Athens Partnership.

A study for setting up a Preparedness and Response Mechanism for the City of Athens is being developed with the financial support of the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and the technical support of the International Rescue Committee (IRC). A Task Force to support the process was established on the initiative of the Vice–Mayor for Migrants, Refugees and Municipal Decentralization and is composed of representatives of the UNHCR - The UN Refugee Agency, the City of Athens Resilience Office and the Directorate of Social Solidarity and Health.


"Following the difficult, but highly enlightening experience of recent years with regard to the management of refugee and migrant flows, we have decided to work on a Preparedness Mechanism so that the City of Athens will be better prepared in case of a new crisis. The fact that the Municipality is taking precaution measures is in itself very important and obviously what matters most is the mechanism’s implementation,” explains Lefteris Papayannakis Vice – Mayor for Migrants, Refugees and Municipal Decentralization. 

An important step in this process was recently completed. The ACCMR organized two workshops on contingency planning and crisis management on 15 December and 9 January at the Orange Grove venue, courtesy of the Dutch Embassy.

The two workshops, supported by the IRC, provided a unique opportunity for a participatory technical discussion, involving city services and other key players. A total of 28 stakeholders participated in the workshops, including 13 specific bodies of the municipality, the Identification and Reception Service of the Ministry of Migration Policy, Attica Region, the UNHCR, Non-Governmental Organizations, namely, the Greek Council for Refugees, Action Aid, International Rescue Committee, Solidarity Now, International Organization for Migration, Unicef Greece and academia.

During the first workshop, participants used their experience and know-how to formulate three practical crisis scenarios for Athens and for each scenario, they assessed the risk probability depending on the possible occurrence of the hazard and the intensity of the emergency. The impact of the hazard depends on the loss or damage to the health and life of refugees and migrants and on the system's ability to respond to the emergency. The emergency situation may result from sudden internal flows or new mixed migration flows. During the next seminar, participants defined the basic municipal organizational structures and responsibilities to guide the City of Athens when involved in a refugee emergency. They also set out the main required preparatory actions to ensure an effective implementation of the contingency plan. 


These workshops will inform the wider study of the Preparedness and Response Mechanism for the City of Athens, due to be completed by the end of February, which will include suggestions for the institutional integration of a preparedness and crisis management plan into the municipal structures. The need for crisis management mechanisms is also recognized as a high priority in “Athens Resilience Strategy for 2030”, where large influx of refugees is identified as one of the main challenges of the city.