Refugees and migrants

European distinction for AP-coordinated Open Schools program

The Council of Europe’s latest handbook on “Promoting Human Rights at the Local and Regional Level” includes the City of Athens’ Open Schools, a program coordinated by the Athens Partnership based on an exclusive grant by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, as a best-practice example for promoting the smooth integration of refugee children. The Handbook presents 65 good practices implemented in over 25 countries all over Europe, aiming at showing how Local and Regional Authorities can implement initiatives that make human rights a tangible reality at the grassroots level.


The Council of Europe’s handbook states:

"By transforming 25 public schools into centres for scientific, creative and sports activities, as well as for language courses for Athenians and refugees, the city of Athens managed to bring together refugee and Greek children, increase the involvement and interaction of neighbourhoods and local schools in the refugee integration process and offer refugee children a safe environment where they can learn and spend time outside of their accommodation centres.

In 2015, the city of Athens launched the initiative “Open schools”, a programme aiming to transform the local public schools in the municipality of Athens into centres for sports, creative learning, language courses and other activities for all Athenians and refugees. With this initiative, the school buildings remain open from the end of school hours until 9:30 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends. Not only do the workshops enhance language skills and cultural understanding of refugee children, but they also contribute to a direct exchange among newcomers and resident population at all age levels. Using the school buildings to host creative workshops for all ages, revitalises the spaces and brings the local community together in an effort to increase the involvement and interaction between neighbourhoods and local schools. The programme is led by the city of Athens and financed by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

During the summer of 2016, 450 out of the 1,250 participants in activities of the open schools were refugees. Today the initiative comprises 25 public schools in the municipality of Athens and numbers 170 courses with a total of 10,184 participants.”

A new digital coordination platform for refugee and migrant services

A new digital platform,, was launched today, bringing together all the services and actions of institutions that contribute to social integration and the protection of migrant and refugee rights. The platform is operated by the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues has been operating since June 2017 with Stavros Niarchos Foundation as founding donor and with the coordination of the Athens Partnership.


"The platform allows non-governmental organizations, international organizations, migrant communities, and civil society organizations more widely, as well as municipal agencies, to be easily and properly up-to-date with crucial information and to refer beneficiaries appropriately," said Athens Mayor George Kaminis, adding: "We all need to work together to improve existing services and to draw up appropriate policies, both for dealing with new extraordinary circumstances, as well to promote smooth integration of the Athens migrant and refugee population in the city of Athens"

The new ACCMR digital platform seeks to fill the gap of valid and up-to-date information on services available for the benefit of immigrants and refugees in the neighborhoods of Athens in areas such as housing, health, education, culture, legal support and integration into the labor market. All stakeholders are invited to participate actively, by registering and listing updated information about their services and initiatives.

In addition, encourages residents, as well as private companies and other stakeholders to support initiatives and actively participate in the development of an inclusive and socially cohesive Athens. Interested parties can register, declare how they can help with donations, voluntary contributions, know-how or in-kind contributions, and the ACCMR will bring them together with organizations in need of corresponding support.

"The Coordination Center's work is an excellent example of a public-private partnership for the benefit of the city. Through the new platform, we are also reinforcing with a web-based tool the work of organizations supporting vulnerable groups of refugees and immigrants as well as all residents of Athens more broadly. This is an added-value initiative, as it can be implemented in other municipalities across Greece, "said Deputy Mayor for Immigrants and Refugees, Mr. Lefteris Papayannakis."

Promoting migrant and refugee integration in Athens through work opportunities

More than 180 representatives of organizations, institutions, private companies and beneficiaries participated in the event "We live together - We work together", organized by the Livelihoods Committee of the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues (ACCMR). ACCMR started operation in June 2017 with founding donor the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and with the coordination of the Athens Partnership and today is made up of 80 member-organizations.


The event was organized by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Solidarity Now, Caritas Hellas, Metadrasi, Praksis, Generation 2.0, Organization Earth, Home, Melissa and Entrepreneurship Academy. The event explored the creation of the right conditions for the integration of immigrants, refugees and socially vulnerable groups through employment, and the importance of these efforts for all Athens residents.

"Access to the labor market is one of the major pillars of the integration process. The challenge for Greece, a country with an official unemployment rate of over 20%, is to find ways to facilitate migrant integration. It is important in this endeavor that stakeholders promote the concept of social cohesion, in order to benefit host communities as well", said Vice Mayor for Migrants and Refugees of the Municipality of Athens, Lefteris Papayannakis.


In the context of two open roundtable discussions, it was stressed that efforts to integrate refugees and immigrants involve the well-being of the whole city, not just those specific groups. Also, support services must embrace all vulnerable groups, whether they are new or old residents of Athens.

The discussion highlighted the importance of the initiative undertaken by the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues. The ACCMR aims to offer better coordination between the municipality and organizations, helping to prepare for potential new emergency situations and to promote the smooth integration of the migration and refugee population in the city of Athens.

Video by -- Filmed by Reza Goldadi & Fanis Kollias Edited by Vassilia Sofroniou

75 organizations working together to improve conditions for migrants and refugees in Athens

Athens Mayor George Kaminis today visited the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues and met representatives of NGOs and other organisations which have joined forces under the coordination of the Municipality of Athens to improve service delivery for migrants and refugees in Athens.


"The city of Athens is proactively coordinating the voluntary and non-governmental organizations active in the field of migrant refugee support, aiming at social integration in the city", stressed the Mayor of Athens, Mr. George Kaminis, welcoming the representatives of these organizations and thanking founding donor, Stavros Niarchos Foundation for their decisive support.

The Center, set up and operating since June 2017 with an exclusive donation from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and with the coordination of the Athens Partnership, aims to coordinate efforts between the municipality of Athens and all those active in the field of support and integration of migrants and refugees.

“The donation for the establishment of the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues is part of the large donation of €10 million from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation to the municipality of Athens, aiming at strengthening the capital's residents faced with a period of crisis, but also of regeneration opportunities. Initiatives such as these, which highlight the possibilities for public-private partnerships for the benefit of the wider community, are now more necessary than ever", said Myrto Xanthopoulou, a representative of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation's Grant Management.


The Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues has 75 member bodies with more than 200 delegates. The Center includes representatives from international and Greek NGOs, international organizations, immigrant communities, as well as municipal agencies. The main common goal is to develop a coordinated response both for dealing with new potential emergencies, as well as for the smooth integration of the immigrant and refugee population in the city of Athens.

Building a strong partnership network

Recently, the Center led the signing of 3 Memoranda of Understanding with other municipalities in Greece, with the aim of exchanging know-how and support for similar projects at a local level. So far, Memoranda have been signed with the municipalities of Thessaloniki, Trikala and Tripoli.


Through the work of the Center’s Technical Committees, gaps and needs have been identified and 65 proposals for pilot actions have already been produced with the aim of meeting the needs of migrants and refugees in areas such as housing, education, health, labor market integration and legal support.

At the same time, the Center has organized seminars, presentations and workshops in collaboration with important institutions. For example, the Center coordinates the participation of its members in the Athens - World Book Capital 2018 and is co-organizer of the Refugee Code Week initiative, through which more than 350 young refugees have been trained to date on the basic principles of programming.

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.