More than a million refugees and migrants arrived in Greece in 2015 and early 2016, over 800,000 of them by sea to the country’s islands, creating one of the most complex humanitarian challenges in Europe in decades. The number of new arrivals dropped considerably closed in 2016 after the EU and Turkey implemented a deal to stem the flow, but it began to increase again in the second half of 2017, including to the country’s mainland ports.

Given the need for more robust, agreed-upon information about the people arriving to Greece, UNHCR requested JIPS’ support in November 2015 to initiate a profiling exercise on three Greek islands to inform not only the immediate response but also longer-term planning and EU migration policy more broadly.

Later, in August 2017 the Municipality of Thessaloniki together with UNHCR and the Urban Working Group requested JIPS’ support, this time to help conduct an urban profiling of refugee and spontaneous arrivals in Thessaloniki to inform integration strategies and the provision of municipal services.

Project overview

Urban Profiling in Thessaloniki (2016 – 2019)
In October 2016, the Thessaloniki Urban Working Group (UWG) was established to enhance coordination of humanitarian actors and address challenges related to working with the displaced population in Thessaloniki. Co-chaired by the Thessaloniki Municipality and UNHCR, the UWG includes members from a wide range of urban responders including neighbouring municipalities, line ministries, NGOs and civil society.

The UWG highlighted the lack of data on the urban refugee and migrant population residing in the greater area of Thessaloniki as a critical concern, while the Municipality also wanted to create a baseline of the situation in order to measure integration of refugees, as part of their work on an Integration Action Plan. Thus, in May 2017, the Thessaloniki Municipality formally requested UNHCR’s support to initiate a comprehensive urban profiling exercise and together they requested JIPS’ support in August 2017.

To lead the exercise, a Profiling Advisory Group as well as a Technical Group was established in October 2017, comprised by:

Profiling process and JIPS' support

JIPS undertook four missions to Thessaloniki between November 2017 and December 2019, and provided extensive remote support in between.

First mission

It had three main objectives:

  • To provide a profiling training/workshop with all potential profiling partners
  • To support partners in specifying the objectives and scope of the exercise
  • To facilitate the establishment of a collaborative structure to steer the exercise

The three-day workshop delivered was a condensed version of JIPS’ six-day Profiling Coordination Training. It also included group work and discussions to prepare the ground for the profiling exercise, which meant that as well as building capacity the workshop also provided a forum for potential partners to begin exploring the relevant objectives and scope of the profiling. The preliminary objectives and scope were subsequently discussed with all profiling partners in bilateral meetings and further refined. Building on these discussions, JIPS and the Profiling Coordinator worked together to formulate a draft proposal for the exercise’s overall objectives, scope and methodology.

Second mission

During this visit, JIPS worked with the Advisory and Technical Group, which in the mean time had been established, on finalising an analysis approach and a list of indicators for the profiling. During a one-day workshop with all partners, the list of indicators for measuring local integration was refined and agreed upon. Prior to this workshop, JIPS together with the partners, Alkyone and Solidarity Now, conducted some focus group discussions with refugees and asylum seekers on the topic of local integration, in order to ground truth and inform the analysis approach. The results from these FGDs were presented and informed the indicators selection for the survey.

Building on the agreed upon indicators, the household questionnaire for the survey was developed with several rounds of input from the Technical Group. JIPS worked with the profiling partners to estimate the population baselines and design a sampling strategy. Data collection followed between May and June 2018.

Third mission

In July 2018, we supported the preliminary analysis of results and a process of community engagement for the analysis. The community consultations aimed at presenting preliminary survey results to refugees and asylum seekers in order to collect feedback, which was crucial for the direction and contextualisation of the ongoing analysis.

Once cleaning and preliminary analysis were completed, a joint workshop with all Advisory Group members was hosted by the Municipality, in order to review the preliminary findings and discuss the interpretation of these as well as the direction of the remaining analysis work.

JIPS then supported remotely the in-depth analysis and report drafting, while the profiling partners jointly shaped the recommendations based on the final analysis.

Fourth mission

We were excited to go back to Thessaloniki in December 2019, to support partners in the organisation and implementation of the profiling report launch. The event showcased the strong partnership and shared ownership of the profiling results, which is remarkable given the fact that the municipal administration had changed in the meantime, and so had many of focal persons within the partner organisations.

Impact and lessons learned

JIPS’ work in Thessaloniki provided rich input for its broader efforts to improve community engagement throughout profiling processes. Active participation from the outset informed the overall analysis approach, the indicators and the interpretation of results in the end. The usage of different qualitative data collection methods, such as visual prompts and other interactive methods, resulted in several pertinent methodological lessons learned.

The inclusion in the exercise of the so-called ‘spontaneous arrivals’, in other words persons with temporary or no legal status in the country, led to many discussions with the profiling partners on the ethical consideration and protection concerns linked to collecting data from populations in such precarious situations.

Project overview

Profiling arrivals to the Greek islands Lesvos, Chios and Samos (2015 – 2016)
UNHCR requested JIPS’ support in November 2015 to initiate a profiling exercise on the Greek islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos. The aim was to gather more reliable information about the people arriving in Greece – including their socioeconomic background, country of origin, displacement trajectories, needs and capacities – to inform not only the immediate response, but also longer-term planning and EU migration policy more broadly.

Profiling process and JIPS' support

JIPS provided UNHCR with initial remote support in designing a profiling methodology and tools before undertaking a joint mission to Lesvos, Chios and Samos, the main islands receiving refugees and migrants, in January 2016. The mission focused on identifying locations for data collection and methods for obtaining a representative sample of the flows of people newly arriving on the islands.

Joint field visits were undertaken to refine sampling methods and the overall methodology for monthly reporting of findings, and eight enumerators were trained in areas such as mobile data collection and administering a survey in preparation for a pilot exercise. The pilot led to final adjustments to the sampling methods and questionnaire for the exercise proper.

JIPS then supported the data collection teams remotely and advised UNHCR on monthly methodology adjustments from January to April 2016. Support was also provided for creating user-friendly monthly reports and analysis of key findings for strategic decision-making of the Agency and key partners.

Impact & lessons learned

The exercise ran for the first few months of 2016 when arrival numbers were high. Results informed various protection interventions – in particular around management of arrival sites on the islands. The exercise, however, was terminated in April 2016 following a change in EU migration policy, which dramatically reduced the flow of new arrivals under a deal with Ankara to process refugees and migrants trying reach Europe before they left Turkey.

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